Second-Half Rallies Fall Short as USC Aiken Outlasts Trojans

Second-Half Rallies Fall Short as USC Aiken Outlasts Trojans

ANDERSON, S.C. – Junior guards Randall Shaw and Gage Ellis combined for 48 points on the night, but the Anderson men's basketball team suffered an 88-85 setback to Peach Belt Conference-foe USC Aiken, Tuesday night at the Abney Athletic Center.  

Anderson (1-4) nearly overcame an 11-point first-half deficit and trailed by nine in the second stanza, but suffered its fourth consecutive loss. USC Aiken (1-1) captured its first win of the season and has won three straight past the Trojans.

Shaw and Ellis shared game-high scoring honors, with each pouring in 24 points. Ellis added five steals, four rebounds and three assists to his impressive stat line, with junior forward Jeremy Bouton recording 10 points and a game-high nine rebounds. Senior center Lester Rochez pulled down six boards and had a pair of blocks in 12 minutes of action.  
First Half
Four of the game's 13 lead changes came in the first four minutes of the contest, with Ellis netting five of the Trojans' first 11 points.

After Ellis' two free throws at the 15:46 mark gave AU a 13-9 lead, the Trojans went cold from the field and connected on just one field goal and a free throw over the next nine minutes. The drought enabled USC Aiken to post a 15-3 scoring run and claim a 24-16 edge with 7:55 left in the half.

Senior forward Luke Musselwhite drained back-to-back 3-pointers and freshman Jordan Jeffries dropped in a jumper to cap an 8-4 surge by the Trojans, as they climbed within 28-24 with 4:37 showing on the clock. But the Pacers responded by using a 10-3 run to claim an 11-point lead with less than three minutes left in the half and they held a 43-36 advantage at the break.

Second Half
With Ellis leading the way in the opening moments, the Trojans blistered the nets in the final stanza and connected on their first four field goal attempts of the second half and erased the seven-point halftime deficit. Senior guard Maurice Howard connected on one-of-two from the line to give AU a 48-47 advantage with just more than 16 minutes to play and the Trojans had the lead for the first time since the 14:07 mark of the opening half.

But the lead was short-lived, as USC Aiken surged back to a 58-49 advantage before Shaw fueled another comeback with nine of AU's points over the next three minutes, with AU claiming a 65-62 lead midway through the half. A little more than two minutes later the contest was knotted again, at 71 apiece before Ellis' second trey of the night capped a 7-1 run and the Trojans led by six with 5:36 remaining.

The two teams traded momentum, with USC Aiken knotting the score at 82-82 on a 3-pointer from Faison Brock. Ellis answered by canning 1-of-2 from the line, while the Pacers' Doniel Dean countered with a pair of free throws to regain an 84-83 edge for the visitors with 2:01 on the clock. It was then Shaw's turn, as the Greenville, S.C., native connected on two from the line, giving the Trojans an 85-84 lead with 49.6 ticks left.

Exactly 10 seconds later, Dean gave USC Aiken the lead for good when he converted a traditional three-point play. The Trojans got off a flurry of shots in the final 30 seconds, but were unable to connect, while USCA's Robert Hill made 1-of-2 free throws with 17.5 seconds left to set the final score.  

AU connected on 13-of-15 attempts inside the arc during the final 20 minutes. The Trojans shot 53.6 percent (15-of-28) in total from the field in the second half – that included 2-of-13 (15.4%) from long range. 

• The back-and-forth battle featured eight ties and 13 lead changes.
• The Trojans and Pacers battled to a stalemate in the paint, as each team scored 34 points from close range.
• AU converted 14 USC Aiken turnovers into 21 points.
• The 43 second-half points were the most by the Trojans in a second half this season.
• USC Aiken won the rebounding battle, 41-36.
• AU has been outrebounded in each of the last four contests.
• Randall Shaw has reached double-figure scoring in all five games.

Following a six-day layoff for Thanksgiving, the Trojans open a three-game road swing, beginning at Johnson C. Smith on Nov. 28. Tip-off versus the Golden Bulls in Charlotte is set for 7:30 p.m.