AIKEN, S.C. – Head Coach George Pitts masterfully managed his roster in King's come-from-behind road victory over the USC Aiken Pacers, Sunday afternoon. The Tornado overcame a seven point deficit and held off the hosts for the final nine-plus minutes of the game for a narrow 88-84 win. Logan Lyle led King with 22 points on a day he shot 70 percent from field goal range as the Tornado improved to 8-1 overall.
Down by four points with just over 10 minutes to play in the second half, King scored the next five points to take a lead it held for the final 9:47 of the game in its victory. Following a crowd-pleasing dunk by Santoine Butler to put the Pacers up, 65-61, Logan Lyle (Unicoi, Tenn.) and the Tornado came down the floor where the sophomore hit one of his seven three pointers on the night to trim the lead to a single point. After a missed three by USC Aiken's Ronald Zimmerman, freshman Aaron Wheeler (Morristown, Tenn.) was fouled on the other end and hit both of his free throw attempts to take a 66-65 lead.
The Pacers temporarily tied the game on the next drive after splitting a pair of free throws but King retaliated with five straight points on their next two possessions. Wheeler again helped his cause off the bench by streaking into the lane for a quick layup with a quick pass by senior Jason Seymore (Powell, Tenn.). Seymore continued on the offensive effort by converting a three-point play when getting fouled after making a layup on their next possession, extending their lead to five, 71-66.
Despite a three point make by USC Aiken's Re'mon Nelson to make for a two point game, freshman Malcolm St. Louis (Lebanon, Tenn.) converted a layup on the fast break to make for a two-possession game, 73-69.
Pacers Kinley Branch and Paul Larsen helped tie the ballgame at 80, capped off by Larsen's dunk, but King thwarted the comeback when senior Eddie Piccinini (Orlando, Fla.) hit his third three pointer of the game. After Jesse Seilern hit two free throws on the next possession, Wheeler continued to impact off the bench with his final two points of the game off a short-range jumper just after being inserted into the game, putting King up 85-82 with 1:09 remaining. He finished with 10 points on the night.
Seilern hit a two pointer on the next drive, forcing King to take a timeout with 35 seconds to go and a one point lead. Piccinini was fouled and split the pair of free throws, making for a two point lead with 29 seconds to go. Coming down the floor, DeVontae Wright lost the handle on the ball when freshman Drew Standifer (Knoxville, Tenn.) forced a steal with seven ticks to go. With possession of the ball, Standifer was fouled and sent to the line where he hit the clinching free throw shots to seal an 88-84 victory for the Tornado.
For much of the first half, King and USC Aiken were nip-and-tuck in their play. Tied 23-23 with 11:37 to go, the Pacers went on a 10-0 run over a 2:30 span of time and built their largest lead of the game, 12 points, with 7:23 to go in the opening frame. King answered with a 13-0 run to regain the lead, 37-36, via seven different scorers. The Pacers took a one point lead into the half after hitting a three at the buzzer, 45-44.
Amidst the Tornado's comeback, 11 of last 23 points were scored by players off of the bench. Eight of those 11 were scored by Aaron Wheeler and in the final 9:47 of the game. The King bench scored 21 points through the entire game.
The Pacers finished ahead of King in most additional categories including points off turnovers (16-13), points in the paint (34-26), and bench points (30-21). The Tornado held the rebounding advantage, 31-28, which led to their edge in second-chance points, 11-8.
Logan Lyle lead all scorers with 22 points, shooting 70 percent of all his shots taken on the day. He went 7-for-10 from the field with all but one shot taken from long range. He finished with six hits on nine attempts from deep and added four rebounds before fouling out of the game.
Jason Seymore joined him in the 20-point club with an even 20 on 7-of-9 from the field. He hit all five of his free throw attempts and added four assists in 38 minutes played. He also brought down seven rebounds.
Eddie Piccinini and Aaron Wheeler finished with double-digit scoring nights with 14 and 10 points respectively on a combined 7-of-11 shooting from the field. Malcolm St. Louis neared a double-double on the night, finishing with a team-high nine rebounds and eight points. He also tallied three blocks, two assists, and a pair of steals.
USC Aiken featured five players with 10 or more points on the night, led by Ronald Zimmerman who fell short of his season average of 18.9 points per game. He also led the team with six assists. Paul Larsen and Kinley Branch held a share of the lead with five rebounds. Santoine Butler continued his success defensively adding to his 28 blocks this season with three more.
With their successful rebound after their loss to Lincoln Memorial on Dec. 16, King improves to 8-1 overall after its final nonconference game of the season. They will jump back into Conference Carolinas action with their unblemished 3-0 league record when they head to Wilson, N.C. for a matchup with the nationally-ranked, defending conference champion Barton Bulldogs. The Tornado and Bulldogs are primed for a Jan. 3 meeting and a 7:30 p.m. tipoff.