Pacer men finish strong, pull away from Broncos

·4 min read


USC Aiken men's basketball coach Mark Vanderslice knew Saturday's game against Fayetteville State wouldn't be about percentages.

Looking at the Broncos' overall body of work wasn't going to cut it — the Broncos like to ride the hot hand, so that throws a lot of the Xs and Os planning out the window.

Sure enough, Fayetteville State kept feeding the ball to two 20-plus-point scorers, and a back-and-forth game stood deadlocked at 62 with 4:18 to play.

The Pacers needed a strong finish, and they produced one Saturday. USCA got the stops it needed down the stretch and turned them into points for a 75-68 win at the Convocation Center.

"They did a good job, but our guys came through," Vanderslice said. "They played great defense. They played great help-side. More than anything, it was the intangibles of playing together and united at the end of the game, especially the last three to four minutes of the game. They played with poise. They played together. They made great decisions and executed down the stretch, and I'm proud of these guys."

USCA (5-3) closed the game on a 16-6 run that started when Tehree Horn returned to the floor and hit a 3-pointer to tie it at 62. He hit another with 4:06 left after a Preston Parks steal for a three-point lead, and David Strother answered a Fayetteville State bucket with one of his own to restore that margin.

Parks scored on a fast break for a five-point lead with 2:47 to go, and a Strother steal with 1:31 left set up a Jalen McCoy put-back that all but put the game away.

Latreavin Black made it 73-66 with 25 seconds to play, and McCoy finished off the run by stealing the inbound pass and laying it in for a nine-point lead.

"Basically, we just had to follow everything that Coach was telling us and execute the play successfully. That's basically what we did," Black said. "I'm really proud of the boys for doing that, keeping positive energy and always staying focused."

Horn scored 17 points to lead five Pacers in double figures, and he hit five of 10 3-point attempts. Black had 13 points and nine rebounds, Strother had 11 points and five assists, McCoy had 10 points and five rebounds, and Parks had 10 points.

Parks, Black, Strother and Tyler Johnson each had two steals apiece, and the three the Pacers had down the stretch were critical in fueling their closing burst. The Pacers average 9.8 steals per game, and Saturday's game (nine steals) followed that script.

"We continue to keep playing aggressive and physical and, at some point, whether it be the last 5 minutes, the last 10 minutes, in this case the last 4 minutes, it's gonna come through. Tonight, it did," Vanderslice said.

Fayetteville State was led in scoring by the duo of Cress Worthy (23 points) and Jalen Seegars (21), who combined to go 18-for-35 from the field but were 1-for-4 with four turnovers over the final 4:30.

"Defensively, we knew our assignments and we were fulfilling them, but they were hitting tough shots," Vanderslice said. "We got to the point that we said, 'Hey, you know what, no more tough shots.' You've just got to find a way to get a stop. You can't just tip your hat to somebody over and over. At some point, you've just got to man up and make sure they're not gonna hit this shot."

USCA had the biggest lead of the game when Johnson put the Pacers ahead 23-14 with a 3-pointer midway through the first half, but Fayetteville State responded with a quick 7-0 run to get within two. An 8-0 run later in the half put the Broncos up 34-30, and an Isaiah Ray 3 gave them their biggest lead at 37-32 with 2:12 left in the half.

Three straight buckets by Black put USCA up 48-41 early in the second half, but Fayetteville State pieced together another 7-0 run to tie it. The teams stayed within five points of one another until the closing minutes when the Pacers surged to their second consecutive win.

USCA returns to action Dec. 12 against St. Augustine's at the Convocation Center.

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