AIKEN, SC – Francis Marion University earned a regular-season sweep over rival USC Aiken on Wednesday night (Feb. 6), upsetting the fourth-ranked Pacers 92-89 in Peach Belt Conference men's basketball action.
It is the highest ranked team Francis Marion has ever beaten in the program's 49-year history. After having gone 25 years without a victory over a Top-10 opponent, the Patriots have posted two in the last month, having handed the then fifth-ranked Pacers their first loss of the season on Jan. 9 at the Smith University Center.
FMU (15-4, 11-3) returns to the Smith University Center on Saturday (Feb. 9) to take on Clayton State University at 3:30 p.m. It will be the 1,000th game as a collegiate head coach for the Patriots' Gary Edwards.
Senior Brandon Parker led four Patriots in double-figures with a game-high 24 points. Joining Parker in double-digits were freshman forward Winston Hill (18), freshman forward Kailex Stephens (14), and senior forward Je'Quan Perry (12).
Parker and Hill each grabbed 11 rebounds, with Parker collecting his second double-double of the season, both of which have come against the Pacers (19-2, 13-2). Hill's 11 boards set a new career-high, and gave the Columbia native his first collegiate double-double. Parker's school-record streak of 29 consecutive made free throws came to an end in the first half, when he missed his first attempt of the evening.
Senior guard Doniel Dean paced USC Aiken with 21 points, while junior center Robert Hill posted a double-double, scoring 19 points and snagging 11 rebounds. The loss snapped a seven-game winning streak for the Pacers, whose only two setbacks this season have come against Francis Marion.
With FMU leading 88-87 and 33 seconds remaining, junior point guard Jaquez Smith broke the Pacers' press, spun away from a defender, and found Stephens for a dunk to extend the margin to three. After an offensive rebound at the other end, Dean hit a pair from the foul line to make it 90-89 Patriots with 14 ticks left.
After a Francis Marion miss at the foul line, Stephens snagged an offensive rebound, was fouled, then canned a pair of free throws to restore the three-point advantage with seven seconds left. The Pacers raced down the court and Dean got a three-pointer away at the buzzer, but it was off the mark to give the Patriots the win.
Trailing by seven at 20-13 five minutes into the opening half, FMU scored seven straight, including five from Perry, to even the score at 20-20. After USC Aiken restored its advantage to four, the Patriots countered with an 8-0 spurt to go in front 28-24.
At the 3:26 mark of the half, a Perry three-pointer capped another 8-0 Francis Marion run which gave the visitors the largest lead of the night on either side at 47-33. The Pacers ripped off the next nine in a row, eventually trimming FMU's advantage to 51-44 heading into halftime.
With the Patriots in front 65-59, the Pacers scored seven straight, capped by a dunk by junior forward Faison Brock, to take a one-point lead. Parker countered with a three-pointer on the ensuing Francis Marion possession to kick-start a 9-0 Patriot spurt to restore an eight-point margin at 74-66.
Seven straight Pacer points briefly evened the score at 77-77 with 5:25 to go, but FMU once again had an answer, with Winston Hill scoring five straight to put the Patriots back on top for good. USC Aiken whittled the Francis Marion lead down to one on four separate occasions over the final 2:39, but the Patriots were able to hold off the Pacers each time.
FMU went 35-for-77 from the field, and made 11-of-30 from beyond the arc. The Patriots knocked down 11-of-15 from the charity stripe. USC Aiken connected on 34-of-75 from the floor, but made just 6-of-26 from downtown. The Pacers hit 15-of-19 from the foul line.
02/06/19 7:30 p.m. at Aiken, S.C. (Convocation Center)
FRANCIS MARION 92, #4 USC AIKEN 89
FRANCIS MARION (15-4; 11-3)
Brandon Parker 8-15 4-7 24; Winston Hill 8-11 0-1 18; Kailex Stephens 5-15
5-5 16; Je'Quan Perry 5-12 0-0 12; Kendall Wall 4-7 0-0 8; Jaquez Smith 3-8
0-0 8; Ryan Davis 2-9 2-2 6; Alex Cox 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 35-77 11-15 92.
USC AIKEN (19-2; 13-2)
Doniel Dean 6-16 8-9 21; Robert Hill 8-10 3-4 19; Xzavier Barmore 7-17 0-2
15; Faison Brock 6-12 2-2 15; Ty'lik Evans 4-14 0-0 11; Kyle Tackeberry 2-2
0-0 4; Darius Bell 1-1 0-0 2; Shaquan Jules 0-1 2-2 2; Myles Washington 0-2
0-0 0. Totals 34-75 15-19 89.
Halftime: Francis Marion 51 USCA 44
3-point goals--Francis Marion 11-30 (Brandon Parker 4-8; Jaquez Smith 2-6;
Je'Quan Perry 2-3; Winston Hill 2-5; Kailex Stephens 1-5; Ryan Davis 0-2;
Kendall Wall 0-1), USC Aiken 6-26 (Ty'lik Evans 3-9; Faison Brock 1-7;
Xzavier Barmore 1-6; Doniel Dean 1-3; Myles Washington 0-1). Fouled
out--Francis Marion-Winston Hill, USC Aiken-None. Rebounds--Francis Marion
45 (Brandon Parker 11; Winston Hill 11), USC Aiken 45 (Robert Hill 11).
Assists--Francis Marion 20 (Ryan Davis 6), USC Aiken 17 (Xzavier Barmore 8).
Total fouls--Francis Marion 14, USC Aiken 14. Technical fouls--None. A-1188