Pacers get it done late, hold off Mountain Lions

·3 min read

Jan. 22—USC AIKEN 53, YOUNG HARRIS 46

Saturday started to feel a lot like Wednesday for the USC Aiken women's basketball team.

Like Wednesday, the Pacers used a strong second quarter and early third to build a double-digit lead. Then, like Wednesday, that lead shrank to a one-possession game late as they turned the ball over against the press.

Most importantly, though, like Wednesday they emerged with a win. The Pacers got the stops they needed and made their free throws down the stretch in a 53-46 win over Young Harris.

"Another one of those kind of games, up and down," said USCA head coach Mark Miller. "I felt like we got off to a little bit of a slow start, and then we controlled pretty much the whole first half. Then we turned the ball over too many times in the second half, which gave them a chance to get back in it.

"I liked our energy. I liked how hard we played. I liked how we competed. We just have to play smarter, be stronger with the ball and make better decisions late in the game when we have numbers, three-on-one, three-on-two, things like that."

The Pacers (7-8, 3-4 Peach Belt Conference) led by as many as 14 points, but like in Wednesday's win over Clayton State that lead dwindled as they were again frustrated by defensive pressure.

A 3-pointer by Lindsey Caudell brought Young Harris within two with 2:38 to play, and the Mountain Lions (11-6, 3-5) continued to fire away from deep to try to take their first lead since 3-2.

The Pacers didn't allow it to happen. Their defense tightened at the 3-point line, and Delaney Trushel, Jentri Worley and Madison Williams combined to go 5-for-6 at the free throw line to secure the victory.

Miller was encouraged by how his team bounced back from a slow start — they were just 5-for-15 from the field in the first quarter — but more so by how they finished the job.

"I was more pleased, even though we turned the ball over and it was a two-point game, we get a stop, we get a rebound, we make free throws down the stretch," he said. "... I was probably more proud of the fact that we were able to somewhat keep our composure, make the free throws down the stretch and kind of get two stops in a row, I believe."

Worley scored 15 of her game-high 16 points in the first half and was 3-for-4 from deep. Chidinma Okafor had a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds, and Allycia Harris had 12 points and six boards. Trushel had six points and seven rebounds, and Williams also had seven rebounds.

The Pacers held the Mountain Lions to just 30% shooting for the game, but they turned the ball over 30 times which led to 20 points. It was a physical battle with bodies tumbling to the floor on countless possessions, especially in the second half as Young Harris turned up the pressure.

"It was tough. We knew it coming in, and we just wanted to continue playing hard no matter what, even with the fouls and everything," Okafor said. "We just wanted to keep playing hard, and it's great that we got the win."

Up next for the Pacers is a trip across the Savannah River on Wednesday to face rival Augusta for a 5:30 p.m. tip.