USC Aiken outlasts King in 69-63 win

Photo Credit: Rachel Burrus

BRISTOL, Tenn. – In what was reminiscent of a heavyweight bout, the King University men's basketball team went toe-to-toe with USC Aiken at the Student Center Complex on Saturday afternoon. The game went back-and-forth until the Pacers gained control of the game in the second half and took the narrow 69-63 from the Tornado.

Neither team held more than a four point advantage in a first half that saw the lead change hands 13 times along with seven ties. The Tornado (4-8) held a three point advantage on a pair of occasions in the first half, following three-point baskets by C.J. Good and James Scales. However, USC Aiken (10-2) had an answer each time to even the score.

With King trailing by four with just over five minutes left in the first half, Scottie Hendricks looked to spark the offense with a one of his two three-point baskets of the game, and Michael Fortune followed with a fastbreak layup to give King a 34-33 advantage. However, the Pacers again had an answer as they closed the final three minutes of the first half on a 5-0 run to take a 38-34 lead into the break.

After the Tornado came back to even the score at 39 two minutes into the second half, the nation's 21st ranked team in the preseason started to gain control of the game. The Pacers scored nine straight points, capped by triples from DeVontae Wright and Ronald Zimmerman to stretch their lead to nine. The USC Aiken lead grew to as many as 12 points before the Tornado tried to mount a comeback.

King trailed by 10 before Hunter LeVeau and Hendricks connected on a consecutive three-point baskets to pull the Tornado within 54-50 almost midway through the second stanza. Shamarae Watts then hit a pair of free throws to cut the deficit to three, but the Pacers again had an answer, quickly extending the lead back to 10 with an 8-0 run.

The Tornado got back within five points with 1:36 remaining, but couldn't get any closer as USC Aiken took the game 69-63. Zimmerman led the Pacers with 22, scoring 17 in the first half while Wright followed with 18 points. USC Aiken shot 46.2 percent from the floor, including 46.7 from three-point range.

Hendricks led King with 11 points while Watts followed with nine points, and the trio of Drew Standifer, LeVeau, and Good all chipped in with eight points apiece. LeVeau snared a team-high eight rebounds, and Fortune dished out four assists. The Tornado shot 45.2 percent from the floor, and 36.4 percent from long range.

King will be in action again on January 4 when they travel to take on Conference Carolinas foe Pfeiffer University. Tipoff from Misenheimer, N.C. is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.