AIKEN, S.C.– The Lander men’s basketball team collected its first victory of the season after defeating the Aiken Pacers, 73-66.
Lander moves to 1-1 overall while Aiken begins its season at 0-1 with the loss.
Head coach Omar Wattad earned his first win as a collegiate head coach after spending the past couple of seasons as an assistant at Lincoln Memorial University.
“I’m grateful to get this win with my team and coaching staff,” said coach Wattad. “This is OUR first win!”
The Bearcats saw three players hit double-figures against Aiken, with junior Jermaine Patterson leading the way with 21 points along with chipping in four rebounds and two assists. Senior DaJuan Moorer was all over the stat sheet, as he put up 16 points, nine rebounds, six steals, four blocks and two steals. Fellow senior Deon Berrien had 13 points as well as six rebounds, three assists and two steals. Redshirt sophomore MJ Armstrong also put together a solid performance, scoring eight points and collecting eight rebounds.
As a team, the Bearcats shot 29-for-53, hitting 55.2 percent of their shots from the field. Lander was also able to dominate the paint against the Pacers, scoring 48 points down low.
Lander and Aiken traded blows to begin the first four minutes of the first half, resulting in three ties. With the score tied at six with 16:05 left, Aiken would hit a three and hold onto the lead until Paterson cut to the basket with 2:50 left to put the Bearcats up 33-32. Another layup from Patterson at 2:28 would push the Bearcat lead to three before the Pacers would start making baskets of their own. Aiken would tie the game up at 1:45 as part of an 8-0 run and finish the first half up 40-35.
Not wanting a repeat performance from their game at Augusta where the Bearcats struggled in the second frame, the Blue and White put together an 18-5 run in the first seven minutes of action to make it 53-45. Moorer and Patterson were the two main catalysts during that drive, with Moorer ringing up seven points and Patterson chipping in five during that stretch. Lander would push its lead to 12 after Berrien sunk a 3-pointer with 7:13 remaining to make it 63-51. Aiken began to chip away at the Bearcat lead but was unable to fully breakthrough. The Pacers came within four points of Lander twice in the last minute, with the score being 67-63 with 55 seconds left and 70-66 with 26 seconds left.
The Bearcats were also stingy on defense, holding the Pacers to 28.9 percent from the field in the second frame of action while only allowing 26 points to be scored.
“I thought we absolutely locked down defensively in the second half. It’s not often a team shoots 19 more field goals than you and you win. It’s a testament to our guys resiliency and fight on the defensive end as well as selflessness on the offensive end.”
Lander and Aiken play each other once more this week, as the Bearcats head back to take on the Pacers this Saturday, December 12 at 3:30 pm.