When his Augusta State University team dropped its first four Peach Belt Conference games, coach Dip Metress remained optimistic.
"Way back when we were 0-4 in the conference I told our guys we weren't that bad," he said.
After a slow start, the Jaguars have won seven of their past 10 games. They notched their biggest win of the season Wednesday, a 10-point victory at No. 20 Clayton State.
The best part about the upset? The team found out about its No. 9 ranking in this week's South Atlantic Region poll after it returned home.
After knocking off the region's second-ranked team, Augusta State (11-10) will try to pull a second consecutive upset. The Jaguars play host to No. 25 Columbus State at 7:30 tonight at Christenberry Fieldhouse. The Cougars (17-6) are ranked third in the region.
If Augusta State can defeat Columbus State, it can almost be assured of a higher ranking. Considering the top eight region teams at the end of the season advance to the NCAA Division II Tournament, the Jaguars find themselves in an enviable position.
"You get this one and you scratch your head a little," Metress said.
Augusta State knows what it must do to pick up the win, but it won't be easy.
The Jaguars, who lost by 10 at Columbus State in January, have to contain the Cougars' 3-point shooters. Columbus State averages 11 3-pointers a game, and more than half their shots (52 percent) come from the perimeter.
"We've got to defend that 3-point line," Metress said. "But yet you've got to control the dribble-drive.
"The main thing is tempo, We don't want to get into an 100-point game with them."
Columbus State's Ransom Antoine leads four players averaging in double digits with 15.8 points a game.
Tyrekus Bowman, who posted 29 points and 14 rebounds in the first meeting with the Cougars, leads Augusta State with a 13.5 scoring average.
- Aiken Tech (17-5, 9-1) created some separation in the Region 10 standings with its two-point win Thursday at Spartanburg Methodist. Tavaris Little's steal and dunk with 2.4 seconds left sealed the win.
"These sophomores are hungry," said coach Bruce Capers, whose team finished at 15-16 last season.
The Knights lead Spartanburg by two games and own the tiebreaker. Aiken Tech leads Clinton Junior College by two games as well, but by just one game in the loss column.
Aiken Tech plays host to Brunswick at 3 p.m. today. The Knights will then face Clinton at home at 7:30 p.m. Monday.
- Paine College typically plays its homecoming games at Christenberry Fieldhouse. But with Augusta State playing host to Columbus State, the school was forced to switch venues.
Paine now will play its games at Richmond Academy. The Lady Lions (15-6) will face Morris College at 6 p.m., while the men's team (14-6) face Claflin at 8.
Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or firstname.lastname@example.org.