Pacers hold off Bobcats in PBC play

Jan. 8—No matter what kind of a streak the Georgia College & State University went on Saturday at The Centennial Center, it was always one basket away from a lead on South Carolina-Aiken.

Brendan Rigsbee put in a career-high 30 points for coach Ryan Aquino on 10-of-15 shooting from the floor, but it was not enough in the first men's home game of the 2023-24 season. Aiken got 35 points from Raleigh's Jalen McCoy for the Peach Belt Conference victory 93-86.

For the Bobcats, it was the fifth loss in the last six games after a blistering 6-0 start to the current season. All previous 11 games were away from Milledgeville, including the first PBC loss to Columbus State.

Jake Mooney came off Aquino's bench to score 17 points with five 3-pointers. Starter Oscar Lynch, like Mooney in his first season as a Bobcat, scored 13 points.

The turning point of the game for USC-Aiken came with five straight points off two turnovers. Overall, it was an 8-0 run to put the Pacers up 14-5. Austin Sloan stopped the streak with a 3 at 14:37 of the first half, but the Pacers matched it immediately.

In fact, the visitors always seemed to have an answer for anything the home club could muster. Reserve A.J. James hit for 3 (23-14) only to see the Pacers respond for 27-14. Mooney banked the basketball in beating the shot-clock buzzer at 5:25, one of two in a row for the West Forsyth redshirt freshman to pull the Bobcats within four, 30-26. Sloan would later grab a rebound and find Lynch on the run for a 3, and GCSU was within one, 34-33, with less than three minutes before halftime.

Unfazed, USC-Aiken reeled off the next seven in a row. Eight points would be the margin at the break as Rigsbee beat the game-clock buzzer making it 45-37.

Rigsbee followed that up with a strong start to the second half. Along with blocking a shot, he took Sloan's possession saving pass and nailed the first of two 3-pointers. With help from Mooney, the Bobcats got within three at 55-52. The home crowd showed its appreciation for GCSU's defensive and rebounding efforts, and at 14:33 3-balls by Mooney and Ian Davis tied the game 58-58.

Lynch, in addition to getting some boards, hit another game-tying 3 for 61-all. James scored three the old-fashioned way with an assist from Sloan. The Pacers still led 65-64, and from that score the Bobcats went cold from the floor. The lead was 75-66 when GCSU finally made another field goal.

Lynch made two more 3-pointers in a two-minute span, but from 4:03 to 1:45 the Bobcats didn't get a basket until Rigsbee connected. USC-Aiken's leads would go from six to 10 for the rest of the contest.