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USC Aiken women's basketball snaps losing streak, beats Clayton State

Feb. 24—USC AIKEN 68, CLAYTON STATE 63

The streak is over for the USC Aiken women's basketball team.

The Pacers, losers of 15 consecutive games in conference play, finally broke into the Peach Belt column with a 68-63 win Saturday over Clayton State on Homecoming.

"Really proud of our effort," said USCA head coach Mark Miller. "I felt we came out and hung around and, we didn't play great at times, but I thought we fought and we competed hard and played hard, and that's something we've been trying to do. I think we did a good job on the boards, limiting their second and third shots. I thought our defense got a lot better starting in the second quarter, and then we just made enough plays down the stretch. Jentri (Worley) doesn't miss many free throws, so that helps, too. Proud of our effort, and it's something we needed really bad."

Worley led the Pacers (5-21, 1-15 PBC) with 25 points, which tied a career high, to go with five rebounds and four assists. She set a new USCA Division II program record by making 19 of her 21 free throw attempts, including several down the stretch to help ice the win.

"I shoot free throws every single day, and I shoot a lot of them," she said. "Even in practice, I always tell myself or put myself in tough situations, you know, like, '30 seconds left, you've got to make these two to win.' So I think just practicing with game-like free throws and game-like pressure, I think that's what helps me in the game."

Annalise Malone added 10 points and six rebounds. Rhiannon Saller, Marta Rivera, and Sami Bardonaro each contributed eight points.

The Pacers trailed by 10 after the first quarter, but outscored the Lakers (9-16, 7-9) 20-7 in the second to take a three-point lead into the halftime break.

The Pacers took their biggest lead of the game when Rivera made a layup with 4:44 left in the third quarter to make it 45-36, but Clayton State responded with a 9-2 run to trail 47-45 heading into the fourth.

The Lakers grabbed the lead at the start of the fourth quarter and held at least a share of it until Malone put the Pacers ahead 61-59 with 2:07 to play. A Bardonaro 3 with 1:42 to go put the Pacers up 64-61, and then Worley connected on four consecutive free throws — two after a costly Clayton State technical foul — to put the game away.

The win is the Pacers' first since Dec. 30, and it comes just three days after they dropped a heartbreaker at home to USC Beaufort. This time, they made sure it didn't come down to a shot at the buzzer.

The Pacers will hit the road for their next contest against North Georgia at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.