Jags chalk up 1,000th all-time hoops’ win Nov. 28

The Augusta University Jaguars (3-2) outlasted the Claflin Panthers (2-1) 76-65 in a catfight on the court at Christenberry Fieldhouse .

With this victory, the AU men’s basketball program reached its 1,000 win. This comes in Head Coach Dip Metress’ 20th season as head coach.

AU fans could consider this a rebuilding year based on the roster turnover from the last two seasons – no absences more crucial than center Tyshaun Crawford, who led the Peach Belt Conference in scoring (21.4 PPG) in 2022, and Miguel Arnold, the conference’s all-time leader in three-pointers. However, Metress’ men battled back from a slow start to get the win over the Claflin Panthers.

It’s not hard to see why the Panthers started their season with a 2-0  record, as they played tight defense on AU up and down the floor all game.

Augusta University cheerleaders. Tyler Strong/Augusta Good News

That disruption led to AU starting the game out in a 3-9 hole until senior David Viti of Buford, Ga. knocked down a three to stop the bleeding. 

Fellow Jaguar veteran, junior Ja’Queze Kirby of Hazlehurst, Ga., swatted a lay-up attempt at the other end of the floor to get the home crowd back into the game.

AU continued to claw back when sophomore Carson Seemann went airborne to make a block but drew a foul when he collided with a Claflin guard. Metress pleaded his case to the ref with his typically outstretched arms and cried, “He’s a white kid that can jump, ref! He’s a white kid that can jump.” 

Even still, AU got into a rhythm and took their first lead of the game with 13 minutes remaining in the first half. Diminutive freshman Zyere Edwards brought back memories of another recent departure in Miguel Arnold when he sank threes on consecutive possessions. He would go on to shoot 4-8 from beyond the arc.

The player brought in to fill the humongous shoes of Tyshaun Crawford was Maximillian Amadasun, a 6-foot-10-inch tall behemoth hailing from Dublin, Ireland. He was under siege in the paint but made his presence felt with key rebounds and put backs throughout the game. He would go on to lead the team with 17 points on Tuesday.

Viti exited the game with seven minutes remaining in the first half after being poked in the eye. When the action was not deemed a foul, Metress let the refs know how he felt about it.

A few possessions later, AU was preparing to inbound the ball before Metress shouted, “Augusta!” Seemann repeated the call as he inbounded the ball and the offense shifted and slid until Amadasun had a wide-open layup attempt, which he converted. While the team is young, the communication and movement gelled more and more over the course of the first half. 

Before the end of the half, Seemann called out “Florida,” as he inbounded, and he dished to Sellers, who fired a pass to Viti for a wide-open three. This one didn’t fall, but the process was there. The score was 38-27 at half in favor of Augusta.

Both teams played with more pace in the second half, but AU drew more fouls on their end of the court, helping open the home team’s lead up.

Claflin’s junior guard Damerious Wash kept the Panthers close in the second half, but continued good looks turned into converted shots for AU had pressed their advantage to 57-47 with 10 minutes remaining in the game.

After Viti converted a tough three-point play, Amundsen sent a Claflin layup attempt flying, inciting a huge roar from the home crowd. AU had pulled away for its largest lead of the game, 63-49 with five minutes remaining. Claflin had racked up 10 team fouls. The final minutes ticked down, and Claflin was too behind to mount a comeback. 

Viti’s senior leadership was as advertised on this night. He accounted for 15 of AU’s 76 points, consistently springing his teammates into open looks.

In 2022, AU reached the national championship game for Division II before falling to Northwest Missouri State.

The following season, the team still rallied to a 27-6 record before falling to cross-town rival USC Aiken in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Last season, AU’s second loss didn’t come until Jan. 21, a 75-89 home loss to Flagler. After righting the ship on Tuesday, Augusta, now 3-2, now enjoys four consecutive home games before traveling to Emmanuel University on New Year’s Day, 2024.

Augusta native Tyler Strong works in broadcast operations for the PGA Tour and CBS Sports. He‘s also covered sports for Augusta Good News.

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