College men’s basketball: Indians play Saturday night in regional

Published 8:37 pm Friday, March 10, 2023


By Mike London

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Catawba’s fifth-seeded men’s basketball team takes on USC Aiken on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. the opening round of the Southeast Regional at Augusta’s Christenberry Fieldhouse.

In the small-world category, fourth-seeded USC Aiken is coached by Mark Vanderslice, who grew up in Salisbury and played for West Rowan’s 1997 2A state champion team.

Vanderslice has experienced quite a journey since his playing days ended at UNC Asheville. He’s coached at the D-I, D-II, D-III and junior college levels.

Getting into the business, Vanderslice traveled from UNC Asheville to Heidelberg to Toledo to Furman, serving as either the head of basketball operations or as an assistant coach.

He got his first chance as a head coach at Louisburg in 2010-11 and put up monster seasons such as 32-3, 30-6 and a program record 35-2.

After five seasons and a 152-20 record at Louisburg, Vanderslice was hired to guide the USC Aiken Pacers. This is his eighth season at USC Aiken.

USC Aiken won the always tough Peach Belt Conference, and Vanderslice was named Peach Belt Coach of the Year for the second time after USC-Aiken won the regular-season championship.

Catawba, of course, also has boasts a coach of the year, with Rob Perron being honored recently by the South Atlantic Conference for the first time.

Catawba (23-7) and USC Aiken (22-8) don’t meet often. They’ve split eight previous meetings. They have not faced each other since  USC Aiken won a 92-90 regional tussle in 2009.

USC Aiken is led by Tehree Horn, who averaged 16,2 points and 6.2 rebounds and was first team all-conference.

Tyler Johnson (13.2), Jalen McCoy (12.5) and freshman Karon Boyd (10.5) are the other key scorers for the Pacers.

Catawba is led by All-SAC second team picks Javeon Jones (14.9) and DeAngelo Epps (14.5). Adrian Scarborough, Peyton Gerald and Kris Robinson often score in double figures, and the Indians are very deep.

Perron usually can play 10 without much drop-off.

Catawba generally takes care of the ball and thrives on steals. Catawba is third nationally in that category.

Augusta, ranked 10th nationally, is the No. 1 seed for the regional and the host team and will take on No. 8 Emmanuel in the opening round  at 5 p.m.

Peach Belt Tournament champion Augusta (26-5) has been coached for almost two decades by Dip Metress, who was the college roommate at Belmont Abbey of long-time West Rowan boys basketball coach Mike Gurley. Keshun Sherrill, who starred for Gurley at West, went on to do amazing things for Metress at Augusta and was one of the great players in Peach Belt Conference history.

No. 3 Lincoln Memorial squares off against No. 6 Lander at 12 p.m. on Saturday. Second-seeded UNC Pembroke tangles with No. 7 North Georgia at 2:30 p.m.

The regional format calls for games on Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday.