Hightower, Buggs key late Winthrop comeback victory over Campbell


Cory Hightower knocked down 5-of-6 threes in a 17-point performance Monday. (Photo: Winthrop Athletics)




ROCK HILL, S.C. – It took two days longer than anticipated, but the rematch of last year’s Big South championship game happened on the same deck where Winthrop claimed its third league title in five seasons just ten months prior.


The game proved worth the wait.


Winthrop overcame a six-point deficit inside the three-minute mark, winning the game on a Drew Buggs turnaround jumper with four seconds to play in claiming a 74-72 result over Campbell Monday afternoon at the Winthrop Coliseum.


“I thought it was a great college basketball game. There were two really good teams. I hope that we’re one of them. I know they are,” Winthrop coach Mark Prosser said after the game. “Tonight, it was just sort of a heavyweight battle down the stretch. I don’t think either team really blinked.”


Both sides used early runs to set the tempo. Winthrop (8-6, 1-0 Big South) jumped out to an 8-3 advantage, only for Campbell to quickly draw the game level at eight on a Jordan Whitfield triple four minutes into the game. The Eagles then rode a 12-5 burst to a seven-point lead, but a 7-0 Camel surge again squared the proceedings at 20. Winthrop again took a seven-point margin on the strength of an 8-0 spurt, but the Camels struck a 10-3 counterpunch that evened the game at 35 at the interval.


Each team enjoyed a solid shooting performance in the stanza. Winthrop hit 14 of its 26 shots in the period (53.8 percent), including 6-of-15 from distance. The Eagles, however, managed just one free throw in six attempts. Campbell (7-6, 0-2) knocked down 48 percent (12-of-25), with three connections from deep on seven tries. The Camels also hit 8-of-13 free throws in the period.


The cycle continued into the second half. Campbell unfurled a 7-0 run out of the locker room that put the Camels ahead, 42-35. Winthrop countered with a 9-0 burst of its own, capped by a Patrick Good trey that put the Eagles back in the lead, 46-44. A back-and-forth battle ensued, with each side struggling to create separation.


Campbell again seized the lead at 58-55 on a Messiah Thompson corner three with 7:17 remaining, only for Winthrop to square it again on a Cory Hightower corner triple 30 seconds later. The visiting Camels eventually expanded their lead to six, only for Winthrop to cash in a five-point possession. Kelton Talford drew a flagrant foul on Jesus Carralero and hit both free throws, then Patrick Good splashed a three from the left wing.


“That possession was a big deal,” Hightower said. “Once you start rolling like that, you see Drew getting the fans involved, and I feel that just helps us altogether – the whole coaching staff, the fans, everything. I feel like it makes us play hard because we don’t wanna let anybody down.”


Campbell again had an answer, though, as Carralero hit a short jumper in traffic to again give his side a three-point advantage. Following a Campbell miss, Hightower drained a corner three to again draw the game even at 72. Whitfield’s try for the Camels would not fall, leaving the Eagles one final possession.


“Once he threw me the ball and I saw the roll, I was shooting, no matter where (the defender) was,” Hightower said. “I just ran to where I like it. When I caught the ball, I heard everybody screaming, ‘Shoot it! Shoot it!,’ so I shot it.”


Buggs held the ball until late in the possession, dribbled into traffic, and worked his way back out toward the top of the key. Buggs turned, fired, and sank a jumper, putting Winthrop up by two. Campbell had one final possession with four seconds remaining, but Whitfield’s late heave fell short.


“Drew did a nice job of keeping his bounce alive. He’s just an experienced big guard,” Prosser said. “He gets in there and does his thing and just takes his time. It was maybe not the shot that we were really excited about as a fade-away, but he’s an experienced kid. It’s not new to him. It’s just a huge play. He deserved it, because he works really hard.”


Hightower guided the Eagles with 17 points from the deck on 5-of-7 shooting, adding eight rebounds to also lead his club in that category. Buggs added 12 and Mike Anumba 10 for the Eagles. Winthrop shot 27-of-53 (50.9 percent) from the floor, getting 12 second-chance points on 10 offensive rebounds.


Cedric Henderson led the Camels with 21 on an 8-for-10 performance from the floor. Whitfield added 17, hitting 5-of-10 tries. Carralero contributed 16, also on 5-of-10. Campbell hit 50 percent (24-for-48) of its looks, including 7-of-17 (41.2 percent) from distance.


Campbell returns home to Gore Arena Wednesday night to face Charleston Southern. Tip time is slated for 7:00. Winthrop remains on its home deck, welcoming UNC Asheville Thursday night. That game is scheduled for 7:00 and will air on ESPNU.


WINTHROP 74, CAMPBELL 72

CAMPBELL (7-6, 0-2 BIG SOUTH): Carralero 5-10 5-6 16, Henderson 8-10 2-3 21, Clemons 1-2 3-5 5, Whitfield 5-10 5-6 17, McCullough 2-3 2-4 6, Thompson 3-7 0-0 7, Lusane 0-4 0-0 0, Stajcic 0-2 0-0 0, Mokseckas 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-48 17-24 72.

WINTHROP (8-6, 1-0): Hightower 5-7 2-2 17, Burns 3-3 1-1 7, Jones 1-4 0-0 3, Anumba 4-12 1-4 10, Buggs 5-10 2-4 12, Talford 3-3 2-4 8, Good 3-6 0-0 8, McMahon 1-3 0-0 3, Corbin 1-3 0-0 3, Claxton 1-2 1-2 3, Buss 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-53 9-17 74.

Halftime — Tied 35-35. 3-Point Goals—Winthrop 11-28 (Hightower 5-6, Jones 1-4, Anumba 1-6, Buggs 0-1, Good 2-4, McMahon 1-3, Corbin 1-3, Claxton 0-1), Campbell 7-17 (Carralero 1-4, Henderson 3-3, Whitfield 2-4, Thompson 1-3, Lusane 0-2, Stajcic 0-1). Fouled Out — Burns (WU), Carralero (CU). Rebounds — Winthrop 32 (Hightower 8, Campbell 26 (Carralero 9). Assists —Campbell 13 (Carralero 5), Winthrop 12 (Jones/Buggs 4). Total Fouls —Winthrop 19, Campbell 15. Technical — Buggs (WU). A —708.



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