Pacers could have answer in McMasters

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AIKEN --- With all five starters gone from last year's squad, offensive question marks surrounded the USC Aiken men's basketball team as it took the floor Thursday night in the season's first exhibtion game.

Casey McMasters made a convincing argument to become the answer. The senior small forward led all scoring with 25 points in the Pacers' 92-58 victory over Southern Wesleyan.

"We've been telling him since last summer, 'You're going to have to step up. You've been playing a role. Now that's over,' " USC Aiken coach Vince Alexander said. "He's been one of our most focused players, to be honest, from the start of practice."

McMasters, who came off the bench last season as a sophomore and averaged 3.6 points in almost 12 minutes of playing time per game, needed only 12 minutes Thursday night to score 23 first-half points. He hit his first six shots to help the Pacers take an 18-point lead at half time, then played sparingly in the second half and finished 8 for 9 from the field and 6 for 7 from 3-point range.

"You can play your role when you have (former players Chris) Commons and Josh (Dollard) out there, but now they're gone," McMasters said. "Tonight things were just going my way. Tomorrow night it'll be Byron (Faison) or somebody else."

McMasters' hot start and his team's strong shooting percentage from the 3-point line early gave the Pacers enough of a spark to keep a slim lead through most of the first half. The Pacers pulled away in the second half, extending a 49-31 halftime lead to a 34-point victory.

The team hit 17 of 31 3-point attempts. Starting guard Mark Brown added 10 points and freshman Re'mon Nelson came off the bench to tally 14 points, nine assists and seven rebounds.

"We have some outstanding guards," Alexander said. "We're going to go very deep in our guards. They play together, they play hard and they shoot the ball well."

Starting forward Rashad Flowers scored one point but posted a game-high 16 rebounds. His added presence on the post helped the three centers. Starter Jores Dongo and backups Michael Technow and Jakub Gadomski shared equal time under the basket and combined for 12 points and 14 rebounds.

Reach Billy Byler at (706) 823-3216 or billy.byler@augustachronicle.com.

USC AIKEN--Casey McMasters 8-9 3-3 25, Rashad Flowers 0-2 1-2 1, Jores Dongo 2-4 0-1 4, Mark Brown 3-5 1-1 10, Sterling Council 1-4 0-0 2, Byron Faison 3-11 0-0 7, Seth Leonard 1-5 2-2 4, Re'mon Nelson 5-13 2-2 14, Jakub Gadomski 1-2 0-0 2, Matthew Simmons 1-5 0-4 2, Ronald Zimmerman 3-7 0-0 9, Jesse Und Aspang 2-5 0-0 6, Michael Technow 3-7 0-1 6. Totals: 33-79 9-16 92.

SOUTHERN WESLEYAN--Nikola Lambic 5-12 0-1 11, Damel Wilson 1-2 1-11 3, Michael Corpening 4-8 0-1 8, Nate Miller 0-5 3-4 3, Nick Lagroone 2-11 2-2 7, Brandon Jankowy 3-11 2-2 10, Joey Cavasinni 0-1 0-0 0, Aramus Smith 0-2 1-2 1, Nathan Wilson 6-8 2-5 15, Nick Crowder 0-2 0-1 0. Totals: 21-62 11-28 58.

Halftime: USC Aiken 49-31. 3-point goals: USC Aiken 17-31 (McMasters 6-7, Brown 3-3, Council 0-1, Faison 1-4, Nelson 2-5, Simmons 0-1, Zimmerman 3-6, Und Aspang 2-4), Southern Wesleyan 5-22 (Lambic 1-1, Miller 0-4, Lagroone 1-4, Jankowy 2-8, Cavasinni 0-1, Smith 0-1, Wilson 1-2, Crowder 0-1). Rebounds: USC Aiken 57 (Flowers 16), Southern Wesleyan 42 (D. Wilson 10). Assists: USC Aiken 18 (Nelson 9), Southern Wesleyan 12 (Lagroone, Jankowy 4). Turnovers: USC Aiken 13, Southern Wesleyan 21. Fouls: USC Aiken 25, Southern Wesleyan 20. Fouled out: Dongo, Leonard. A-1326.


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