AIKEN, S.C. - The Georgia Southwestern men's basketball team had upset on the mind as they led No. 10 USC Aiken by as many as 11 points in the second half, but the Pacers rallied down the stretch and held off GSW, 81-76, on Wednesday evening.
The Hurricanes have lost five of their last seven games and fall to 18-8 overall and 10-7 in the Peach Belt Conference. USC Aiken has lost only one game since Nov. 23 and improves to 23-3 overall and 15-1 in the PBC. The Pacers entered the game 9-1 at home with an average margin of victory of 18.7 points.
The two sides played an even first half. GSW led by five points on three different occasions between the 12 and 4-minute marks of the opening stanza. Josh Birchfield sank a pair of free throws with 5:12 left before the break to put the Hurricanes ahead 28-23. USCA brought the game back to even at 30-30 and after GSW had taken a 36-33 advantage, Jesse Seilern hit a 3-pointer in the closing seconds of the period to make the score an even 36-36 at intermission.
Alan Arnett connected on a jumper for GSW to open the second half and the Hurricanes maintained a lead until Seilern converted a pair of free throws with 6:42 remaining to even the score at 65-65. The Hurricanes largest lead of the night came a few minutes earlier when Daryl Davis put GSW ahead 61-50.
The Pacers grabbed the lead for good when Santoine Butler made a jumper at the 2:06 mark to put USCA ahead 74-73. Following a GSW turnover, Butler extended the margin to four with a 3-pointer. The Hurricanes would get no closer.
Both sides shot over 50 percent in the second half. GSW made 15 of 26 (57.7 percent) while USCA connected on 17 of 32 (53.1 percent). GSW was unable to match the Pacers from long range over the final 20 minutes. USCA made 3 of 5 and GSW was 0 for 6.
Overall, the Pacers held a slight rebounding advantage, 39-34, and an edge on assists, 13-9. GSW committed two more turnovers, 13-11.
Arnett scored a game-high 21 points for GSW. Birchfield came off the bench to score a career-high 18 points behind 7 of 11 shooting. Davis was 6 of 11 from the floor en route to his 18 points. Johathan Brooks chipped in 10 and grabbed nine rebounds.
DeVontae Wright and Ronald Zimmerman finished with 17 points apiece to lead USCA. Wright added six assists and four steals. Zimmerman hit 4 of 8 from beyond the arc. Paul Larsen scored 13 points and pulled down nine rebounds, including four on the offensive end. Seilern added 15 points.
The Hurricanes return to Americus for Senior Day and the home finale on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. against Clayton State.