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Burns has big night as Winthrop gets season-opening win

Photo: Winthrop Athletics

ROCK HILL, S.C. – No good deed goes unpunished.

Winthrop had a couple of special firsts Tuesday night – Mark Prosser’s first game as the Eagles’ head man was the most significant for those in garnet and gold. It was also the first game ever for Mary Baldwin University, a Division III school in Staunton, Virginia. Their first-year leader, Matt Griggs, is also quite familiar with Winthrop, having been part of Pat Kelsey’s staff alongside Prosser. The Eagles scheduled the game to welcome Griggs back to Winthrop.

Prosser’s Eagles got a bit more than they bargained for in the Fighting Squirrels – especially in the first half – but eventually found their stride, putting away a 110-78 victory in front of an enthusiastic crowd in the Winthrop Coliseum.

"I think that the outcome that we wanted was to start the season 1-0," Prosser commented after the game. "There's still gonna be some kinks to work out. We're not a finished product, by any stretch of the imagination.

"I think we showed the ability to score the basketball. I think anybody that watched the game could see that we have to do a better job defensively and buckle down at that end of the floor, and that gives us a lot to work on for the next couple of days."

Winthrop (1-0) led by as many as 17 in a frantic first half. The Eagles shot a sizzling 63 percent (22-for-35) from the floor in the period, but still found themselves fighting off the unafraid Fighting Squirrels. Mary Baldwin (0-0) knocked down 43.6 percent (17-of-39) of its first half tries, staying within a 58-46 margin on the strength of 23 combined points from Jaden Ignacio and Tyler Thomas.

Ignacio made the proceedings even more uncomfortable out of the locker room, dropping a triple that sliced the Eagles’ lead to just nine points. The lead remained at nine after a Tyler Thomas layup at the 17:23 mark but would never shrink. Six-and-a-half minutes later, the Eagle lead swelled to 20. A DJ Burns layup with 5:45 remaining grew the lead to 30. The Eagles achieved their biggest lead – 33 points – on three separate occasions as the final minutes of the game drained away.

Burns lived up to his preseason Conference Player of the Year billing Tuesday, pacing all scorers with 30 points on 13-of-17 shooting in 22 minutes. Five other Eagles joined Burns in double figures, with Cory Hightower and Kelton Talford contributing 13 apiece. Josh Corbin added 12, with Chase Claxton tallying 10 in 18 minutes of relief action.

"(Burns' effort) was pretty impressive, as far as I'm concerned. He's had a heck of an offseason. He's had a heck of a preseason," Prosser said. "I'm not surprised to see it carry over. It's fun to see when guys work really hard, to see it come to fruition, and it did for DJ today."

Ignacio and Thomas finished atop the scoring ledger for the Fighting Squirrels, pouring in 15 each. Vernon Fraley added 13, with Brandon Stoudamire putting 12 points in the book. Mary Baldwin shot 45 percent from the floor on the night, knocking down 29-of-65 shots. The Virginia-based visitors managed to get to the line just 10 times – hitting seven – and grabbed 26 boards.

Mary Baldwin hits the road to Gettysburg, Pa., for an opening tilt in the Gettysburg Tournament Friday night at 6:30. Winthrop welcomes Mercer to Winthrop Coliseum Saturday for its Homecoming game. The game is slated to start at 2:00 (Eastern).


Inside the Numbers

Now that you've read the recap, let's go inside the numbers!

30 for 30: Burns had a tremendous night, and it almost seemed to happen quietly -- if that's possible. The big man turned in a 22-minute effort -- he played 20 or more just three times in last year's 23-2 season -- and told us after the game that he felt great. He hauled in just six of Winthrop's 43 boards, but that mattered little. His footwork around the basket looked solid, and Prosser remarked that Burns' conditioning work was starting to pay dividends.

Ignacio ignites: Mary Baldwin guard Jaden Ignacio -- a 5-foot-8 freshman -- had a tremendous night for the Fighting Squirrels. As I remarked during the game, every D3 school has at least one guy who, for reasons owing to size, academics, or whatever, ends up at that level despite having D1 game. Ignacio was that guy for MBU -- to the point that Prosser addressed with us after the game that he had to move defensive stoppers Mike Anumba and Chase Claxton onto him to neutralize him. Ignacio drilled 5-of-7 from distance, dished four dimes, and grabbed two boards in 30 minutes of play.

A wonderful first effort: One would never have realized that this was the first game Mary Baldwin had played. The Fighting Squirrels shot nearly 45 percent against a 2020-21 NCAA tournament team with a lot of key cogs back. They acquitted themselves quite well. MBU has one more D1 exhibition at William & Mary later this year, but keep an eye on these guys at the D3 level.

And finally, the Hustle Stats:

  • Points in the paint: Winthrop 50, Mary Baldwin 32

  • Points off turnovers: Winthrop 24, Mary Baldwin 6 - Winthrop turned 11 Fighting Squirrel turnovers into 24 points. Wild.

  • Second-chance points: Winthrop 10, Mary Baldwin 4

  • Fast-break points: Winthrop 17, Mary Baldwin 6


MARY BALDWIN (0-0): Ignacio 5-8 0-0 15, Fullagar 3-7 0-0 8, Thomas 6-13 1-1 15, Hart 1-5 2-2 4, Fraley 5-9 1-2 13, Asbury 0-3 2-2 2, Williams 0-0 0-0 0, Leipold 0-1 0-0 0, Lewis 1-1 0-0 3, Cottrell 1-1 0-0 3, Lewis 0-1 1-2 1, Brun 0-1 0-0 0, Bartram 0-1 0-0 0, Stoudamire 6-12 0-0 12, Wilson 1-1 0-1 2, Lemus 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 29-65 7-10 78.

WINTHROP (1-0): Anumba 1-3 2-2 5, Buggs 0-0 2-3 2, Hightower 3-5 4-4 13, Burns 13-17 4-7 30, Corbin 5-10 0-0 12, Jones 3-6 1-2 9, McMahon 3-6 2-2 10, Talford 5-9 3-4 13, Good 1-1 1-1 3, Buss 1-2 0-0 3, King 0-0 0-0 0, Claxton 4-7 0-0 10. Totals 39-66 19-25 110.

Halftime — Winthrop 58-46. 3-Point Goals—Winthrop 13-26 (Anumba 1-3, Hightower 3-4, Burns 0-1, Corbin 2-6, Jones 2-3, McMahon 2-4, Buss 1-2, Claxton 2-3), Mary Baldwin 13-30 (Ignacio 5-7, Fullagar 2-5, Thomas 2-7, Hart 0-3, Fraley 2-4, Asbury 0-1, Lewis 1-1, Cottrell 1-1, Brun 0-1). Fouled Out — Asbury. Rebounds — Winthrop 43 (Talford 8), Mary Baldwin 26 (Stoudamire 6). Assists —Winthrop 21 (Buggs 6), Mary Baldwin 14 (Ignacio 4). Total Fouls — Mary Baldwin 19, Winthrop 15. Technical — NA. A —921.


Brian and Alex Zietlow of the Rock Hill Herald recap the game in podcast form -- click the play button below!


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