Bolton III lifts USC Aiken over Armstrong State with two late free throws

Courtesy: USC Aiken Athletics

AIKEN, S.C. – The University of South Carolina Aiken men’s basketball team netted an 86-85 victory over Armstrong State Monday evening.

The Pacers are now 16-6 on the season, including a 10-5 mark against conference competition. The Pirates fall to 10-13 overall and 5-9 in league play.

Leading the way for head coach Mark Vanderslice‘s team was Henry Bolton III, who poured in a game-high 23 points, including the final two on charity tosses with less than a second remaining.

Christian Nobles accounted for 20 points and four assists in the win. Mark Matthews notched 12 points to go along with seven rebounds in the contest.

Robert Hill tallied nine points and snagged a team-high 10 rebounds, narrowly missing a double-double for the second straight game. Kevin Chuisseu was also big on the boards, pulling down eight. He also swatted away a pair of shots.

Nenad Milenkovic chimed in with nine points while Austin Grimes totaled eight.

Trailing by one with five seconds to go, Bolton III missed a shot, but it was snagged by the Pirates. However, a traveling call gave the Pacers the ball back. Bolton got the ball and dribbled right. At the foul line, Bolton III pulled up for a jumper, but was fouled with four-tenths of a second to play. He calmly made both free throws, clinching the game for Vanderslice’s team.

The game was tightly contested the entire first half, but USC Aiken found itself trailing 33-29 with 1:04 to go in the half. After a pair of free throws by Bolton III, the Pacers had a strong defensive stand to get the ball back with two seconds to play. Nobles got the pass and promptly buried a three-ball from 24 feet away, giving USC Aiken a 34-33 lead at the break.

The Pacers slowly increased their lead in the second half, pushing it to six on a pair of free throws by Hill with 14:02 to go.

Leading 63-61 with 6:51 on the clock, Nobles found Bolton III for a three-ball. After a rebound by Hill, he found Bolton III for his third straight shot from downtown, giving the Pacers a 69-61 edge. A lay-up on the ensuing possession by Nobles made it 71-61 with 5:22 to go.

USC Aiken led 79-68 after a free throw by Austin Grimes with 3:08 to play, but the Pirates battled back. With 29 seconds to go, Armstrong State converted the ever-rare four-point play for an 85-4 lead, setting the stage for Bolton III to bury the game-winner.

For the game, USC Aiken hit 29-of-70 from the floor (41.4 percent), including nine-of-27 from downtown (33.3 percent). The Pacers canned 19-of-24 from the charity stripe (79.2 percent). USC Aiken outscored the Pirates 40-26 in the paint. The home team also held a 16-15 advantage in second chance points and a 24-11 edge in fast-break points.

The Pacers return to action Wednesday when they travel to UNC Pembroke. Tip-off is slated for 7:30 p.m.

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