Despite star forward Joab Jerome missing the game with an ankle injury and leading scorer Keon Johnson being held scoreless, Winthrop (8-6, 2-0 Big South) registered an impressive 85-68 victory over the Bucs in front of 1,327 fans on their home floor.
The first half was a back-and-forth affair, as the teams traded the lead nine times and tied three others. Both teams shot extremely well in the stanza, with Charleston Southern hitting 11-of-25 shots (44 percent) against the homestanding Eagles’ 50 percent (16-for-32). Many of those makes came from behind the arc, as the teams combined to hit 15 of 30 shots from distance in the half. One of those threes, though, may have been the key to the eventual Winthrop victory.
Charleston Southern (7-8, 1-1 Big South) had the ball trailing by a point with the chance to head to the locker room with a lead. Bucs guard Saah Nimley turned the ball over with seven seconds remaining, and after a CSU foul with four seconds remaining, Winthrop had a brief final possession. Guard Andre Smith made the most of that possession, drilling a deep triple to give the Eagles a 42-38 halftime lead.
“I thought Andre’s three right before the end of the half was just a big shot,” said Winthrop head coach Pat Kelsey. “It just gave us a shot in the arm, if you will, and a boost going into the locker room.”
Winthrop rode that momentum as the second half began, as the Eagles jumped out on a 12-2 run in the first 3:18 of the second half. That spurt was quickly answered by Charleston Southern, who opened an 11-0 run of their own over the next 3:30 to cut the Winthrop lead to three at 54-51. The Bucs would get no closer, though, as a Christian Farmer three gave Winthrop a six-point lead.
Charleston Southern managed just 17 points in the final 13:12 of the game, as Winthrop turned up the defensive pressure. A large part of the pressure was focused on star CSU guard Saah Nimley, who managed just a 3-for-10 shooting day and rarely saw a comfortable look. Said Kelsey of Nimley, “He’s good. He’s a really good player. [...] He’s really hard to keep in front of you. When he gets in the lane, he sprays the ball, and he can score. He probably missed some shots he normally makes. I credit our guys a little bit for having a little bit to do with it, but I know one thing. That kid gives me nightmares, because he’s that dangerous.”
CSU coach Barclay Radebaugh spoke of Winthrop’s offensive success, and primarily how his team responded. “Certainly, there was a lot of things defensively, we really struggled to stop
them. They shot the ball extremely well. They gave us some of our own medicine, hitting fifteen threes, and congratulations to them,” said Radebaugh. When speaking of Winthrop’s 28-to-11 advantage in points off turnovers and 15-8 edge in second-chance points, Radebaugh said, “They had 28 points off turnovers, so you can’t turn the ball over like that and give 28 points. Then they had [...] 15 points off of second-chance. 43 points that we caused, by not boxing out and by turning the ball over. You can’t win a basketball game giving up 43 points. You’ve gotta make them earn their points. [...] Just a great performance, a very good performance by them and a poor performance by us.”
Both Coaches Press Conferences Audio Can Be Heard Here:
AUDIO: Charleston Southern Head Coach Barclay Radebaugh: http://chirb.it/ffdN4s
AUDIO: Winthrop Head Coach Pat Kelsey: http://chirb.it/Hhps0w
Winthrop guard Keon Moore paced the five double-digit scorers on his club, pouring in 23 points on 9-of-14 shooting. Moore combined with fellow guards Andre Smith and Christian Farmer to hit 15 of their 23 three-point attempts, with each man hitting five. Smith added 19 points, with Farmer contributing 15 in just 14 minutes of action. Forwards Tevin Prescott and Larry Brown respectively scored 13 and 11. The Eagles shot 51.7 percent (31-for-60) from the floor and made 15-of-28 (53.6 percent) of their threes. Winthrop went to the line just 14 times, hitting eight of those attempts (57.1 percent).
Charleston Southern returns to Big South action at 7:30 Wednesday, taking on Presbyterian at the CSU Field House. Winthrop welcomes Gardner-Webb to the Winthrop Coliseum at 7:00 Wednesday evening.