AIKEN, SC – Senior swingman Casey McMasters scored 18
points and freshman guard Re’mon Nelson recorded a
game-clinching steal with one second left to allow USC Aiken to
escape with a 58-55 win over Clayton State University, Saturday
night (March 6) in the semifinals of the Peach Belt Conference
Men’s Basketball Tournament.
USCA (18-10) advances to its third straight tournament title game, while Clayton State ends its season at 16-13.
Following McMasters for the Pacers was junior guard Byron Faison with 10 points, while senior Seth Leonard tallied six points and 10 rebounds.
Senior guard Robert Murry led Clayton State with 19 points on 8-of-16 shooting, while Brandon Robinson scored 13 and Timothy Downs 12.
The two squads slugged their way to a 26-26 deadlock at halftime. Neither team shot above 35 percent from the floor in the opening half.
USCA opened the second half with a 10-0 run, holding the Lakers scoreless for 6:06, and took a 36-26 lead. Clayton State responded with a 15-5 spurt to knot that game at 41-41 following a dunk by Robinson at the 7:08 mark.
A jump shot by Murry forged the game’s seventh tie at 48-48 with 3:37 left. The Pacers then ran off seven straight points to lead 55-48 with 1:30 remaining. Two USCA turnovers allowed Clayton State to close to within 55-54 on a layup by Downs with 24 ticks left. McMasters then made one of two free throws pushing the margin to 56-54. Downs missed a potential tying jumper, but Clayton State’s Eric Wilson rebounded the miss and was fouled. He made the first charity shot, but missed the second attempt leaving the Pacers with a 56-55 lead.
Faison was immediately fouled and he made both free throws with 4.8 seconds left. Downs quickly pushed the ball up the floor, but his pass to the wing for a potential game-tying three-pointer was intercepted by Nelson ending the game.
USCA outrebounded the Lakers 49-33.
PBC Men's Semifinal #2 - USC Aiken vs. Clayton State
USC Aiken Head Coach
“We are truly blessed to be here. It does feel different with no Chris Commons and no Josh Dollar. Nobody expected us to be here, but here we are.”
“We feel like we have good rebounders and great scoring in there (with this lineup). We probably should have gone to this earlier, but its working now.
(On facing Montevallo): “We had a hard-fought game with Montevallo the last time we played here where we lost in overtime. All I know is that we both feel that we have to win to get in the NCAA Tournament and we are telling our teams that its going to be a straight-up battle.”
USC Aiken’s Casey McMasters
“I have faith in my teammates and I knew we would find a way to win this ballgame.”
Clayton State Head Coach Gordon Gibbons
“We were not very good on offense today. You’ve got to give credit to the other team, if you can’t attack more effectively than we did, then its going to be tough.”
“We certainly had our opportunities. We came out the start of the second half and for some reason I thought our team looked dead. We must have gone five, six minutes without scoring. It wasn’t like the other team was taking the ball from us, but you just cant go 2-for-16 from three (range). You can’t do it.”