Winthrop's Sin'Cere McMahon tallied 13 in Wednesday's victory. (Photo: Winthrop Athletics)
ROCK HILL, S.C. – Winthrop took the deck Thursday night having won 19 of its last 20 games in the Winthrop Coliseum. Eight of those victories have come without a loss this season, following a year in which only Asheville conquered the Eagles on their home maple in yet another championship season for the garnet and gold.
For at least a half Thursday, that streak appeared in serious jeopardy.
In the end, though, the Eagles got back to what earned banners for many of those Winthrop teams of old – defense.
Winthrop held visiting North Carolina A&T to a stifling 28 percent from the deck in the second half, using numerous key stops and 52 percent second-half shooting to withstand the visiting Aggies, 64-54, before an announced crowd of 2,192. The result also came without Cory Hightower, Patrick Good, and Josh Corbin, who all missed the game for various reasons.
North Carolina A&T (9-15, 4-5 Big South) seized control almost from the jump, starting the contest with back-to-back buckets from Marcus Watson and Collin Smith to take a 5-0 lead. Winthrop (15-8, 7-2) quickly countered with a 9-4 run capped by a Drew Buggs layup to take its lone lead of the first stanza at 9-8. A&T quickly fired back with a 9-0 burst of its own over a nearly five-minute stretch, swelling its lead to eight. Jamal King knocked down a three at the 6:35 mark to cut the Aggie advantage to a single bucket, but the Eagles could never again regain the lead. A&T held Winthrop at bay, taking a 31-25 lead to the interval.
The home side started the second half in a much better fashion. Sin’Cere McMahon splashed home a triple, followed by a DJ Burns jumper that knifed the Eagle deficit to a single point just over a minute into the period. After back-to-back A&T buckets that pushed the lead back to five, Winthrop seized control.
Demetric Horton gave the Aggies their final lead of the contest at the 14:04 mark, knocking home a three that afforded his team a 38-36 advantage. Winthrop then used a 9-0 advantage to grab a seven-point lead with 9:39 to play. The Eagle offense played a key role in the run, to be sure, but recovery deflections from Chase Claxton and Russell Jones served to fire up both the Winthrop bench and the lively crowd.
The Aggies continued to battle, pulling within a possession at the 3:11 mark on a Horton free throw. Burns then turned away the Aggie rally, finishing off the window through harm and converting the extra try to double the lead back to six. A&T was able to draw within four on two Kam Langley free throws but could reduce the lead no further.
Burns paced all scorers with 15 for the Eagles. 11 of the big man’s points came in the closing stanza on 5-for-8 shooting. McMahon added 13, connecting on 4-of-10 tries from the deck. Winthrop scored 1.35 points per possession on its 29 trips in the half.
Watson led the Aggies with 11, with four of his nine tries from the field finding the net. Horton added 10 but could manage just four of his 13 attempts. A&T hit 6-of-22 attempts from distance in the contest, as Winthrop rebounded from a strong Longwood perimeter effort against the Eagles on Saturday to lock down the Aggie perimeter game.
NEXT UP: A&T continues its road swing at Gardner-Webb Saturday. Tip time in Paul Porter Arena is set for 2:00. Winthrop travels to Hampton, Va., to take on Hampton. That game is slated to get underway at 5:30 Saturday evening.
POSTGAME PRESS CONFERENCES
Hear comments from Winthrop guard Sin'Cere McMahon and coach Mark Prosser met with the media after the game: