Pirates won't push Jags around now

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Augusta State coach Dip Metress remembers well what Armstrong Atlantic State did to his team last season.

The Pirates used their powerful inside game to win the Peach Belt Conference Tournament quarterfinal matchup and end the Jaguars' season.

"They're very physical," Metress said. "When we lost to them in the tournament last year, they physically manhandled us."

When No. 21 Armstrong Atlantic State (12-3, 3-1) plays host to Augusta State tonight, it will face a much different team.

The Jaguars (12-3, 4-0) beefed up its frontcourt with the emergence of Garret Siler. The sophomore center averaged 21 points on 70 percent shooting with six rebounds in two games last week to earn the conference's player of the week honor.

Siler is part of the reason Augusta State is averaging a league-best 81.3 points a game.

The Jaguars also lead the Peach Belt in field-goal shooting, 3-point field-goal shooting and free-throw shooting.

Augusta State's Tyrekus Bowman leads the league in scoring with a 20.4 average, while Ben Madgen is fourth (17.5). Siler is 12th in scoring (13.7), sixth in rebounding (7.5) and first in blocked shots (43).

The Jaguars are off to their best start since the 1977-78 season. After consecutive overtime losses on the road in early December, Augusta State has won eight of its past nine, including four in a row.

"I like this team right now more than I have the last two years at this stage," Metress said. "But we've got to be careful. We can't be overconfident."

ALMOST THERE: Clayton State remained No. 2 in the latest NABC/Division II men's basketball poll. The Lakers are 15-0 overall and tied with Augusta State atop the South Division.

No Peach Belt men's team has ever been ranked No. 1 during the season. Kennesaw State sat atop the poll after winning the 2003-04 national championship.

Clayton State travels to Augusta State, Feb. 7.

HEXED?: The USC Aiken women will try to snap an eight-game conference road losing streak when they travel to Francis Marion tonight. The Lady Pacers (10-5, 2-2) appeared primed for a road win at Columbus State on Saturday before falling on a last-second shot in overtime.

RIGHT PLACE, WRONG TIME?: One of the better rivalries in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference takes place on Thursday night when the Paine women travel to Fort Valley State (10-4, 7-0). Five of their past six games have been decided by six points or less.

Paine (6-7, 5-2) has lost all four regular-season matchups the past two seasons.

The Lady Lions, however, have knocked off the Lady Wildcats in the SIAC Tournament the past two years.

"Our record isn't what it's been the past few seasons," Paine head coach Terence Palmer said. "But they know it's been a lot of close games then."

Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or chris.gay@augustachronicle.com.


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