Improved bench one key in Lady Jags' strong start

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Reviewing and previewing college basketball:

WHO'S HOT

Augusta State women. The Lady Jaguars have won five a in a row and improved to 7-2, the same record they had a season ago. The team has more depth in the front court, and it is leading the Peach Belt Conference in rebounding.

WHO'S NOT

Nova Southeastern men. Coach Gary Tuell, the former Augusta State leader, has watched his Sharks drop three of their past four. At 6-5, Nova Southeastern faces Tampa and No. 4 Rollins in the next 11 days.

CRYSTAL BALL

The first set of South Atlantic Region men's rankings will appear later this month. Augusta State and USC Aiken likely will be the top two teams. Armstrong Atlantic State and Georgia College & State are likely to be the other Peach Belt schools in the top 10.

Look for Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association's Virginia Union, Saint Augustine's and Johnson C. Smith to be in the mix.

Last year's South Atlantic Regional champion, Wingate, will be in the top 10, along with fellow South Atlantic Conference teams Carson-Newman, Lenoir-Rhyne.

NATIONAL SCENE

If the men's and women's teams at Augusta State and USC Aiken all win today, there's a good chance all will be ranked in the top-25 next week. That would be an area first. Three of the squads already are ranked: No. 12 Augusta State men, No. 13 USC Aiken men and No. 20 USC Aiken women.

TODAY'S SLATE

- USC Aiken women at North Georgia, 2 p.m. The Lady Pacers have to contain Syretha Marble, the conference's second-leading scorer (22.0).

- USC Aiken men at North Georgia, 4 p.m. The Pacers face a Saints defense ranked ninth in league scoring.

- No. 21 Clayton State at Augusta State women, 5:30 p.m. The Lady Jaguars have split the past four meetings with the Lady Lakers.

- Clayton State at Augusta State men, 5:30 p.m. Jaguars senior forward Tyrekus Bowman scored 26 and 27 in two of three games against the Lakers last season.

- Paine women at Clark Atlanta, 6 p.m. The Lady Lions need to improve their front-court play.

- Paine men at Clark Atlanta, 8 p.m. The Lions seek to build momentum after a last-second win over Miles.

RANKING THE MEN'S TEAMS

1. USC Aiken (9-1, 3-0). Despite their first loss at No. 4 Rollins, the Pacers continue to prove why they'll be a Division II Tournament team.

2. Augusta State (6-3, 1-1). Jaguars would be undefeated with better bench production.

3. Aiken Tech (9-1). Guard Gabriel Robinson is leading the Knights with a 6.3 assist average.

4. Paine (3-5, 2-2). Senior center Jerome Nicholson solid with double-double against Miles.

RANKING THE WOMEN'S TEAMS

1. Augusta State (7-2, 1-1). Lady Jaguars are leading the conference with a plus-11.9 rebounding margin.

2. USC Aiken (8-1, 2-1). Junior guard Meredith Legg is seventh in conference scoring with 15 points per game.

3. Paine (2-5, 2-2). Lady Lions last in conference free-throw shooting (.552).

-- Chris Gay


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