Hill's career-high puts Longwood alone atop Big South


Longwood throws down a dunk before a packed house in Saturday's win. (Photo: Mike Kropf)



FARMVILLE, Va. – Everyone who has seen the HBO series The Wire uses the same quote.


“You come at the king, you best not miss.”


Willett Hall served Saturday as the home for a somewhat unfamiliar scene during Longwood’s decade in the Big South. The circuit’s top two teams did battle in what promised to be a battle to the final possession.


The Lancers went at the Big South’s reigning king and didn’t miss – figuratively and almost literally.


Longwood canned 14 three-pointers and missed just once in 23 attempts from the line, making an emphatic statement in a 92-88 result over the back-to-back league champion Eagles.


Here’s a recap of Saturday’s action:


FIRST HALF

  • Cory Hightower dropped the game’s first bucket, hitting a corner triple to put Winthrop ahead 3-0 (19:38)

  • The sides largely traded makes until just inside the 6’ mark, with a 5-0 personal run for DeShaun Wade putting the Lancers ahead, 22-17 (5:42)

  • Jamal King pulled Winthrop back within two after dropping a trey from the left wing (5:18)

  • Chase Claxton cut it to three with two free throws, but a 7-2 Longwood burst capped by a Jaylani Darden layup grew the lead to eight at 32-24 (2:34)

  • Sin’Cere McMahon sliced it to five with a three, but back-to-back triples from Isaiah Wilkins and Nate Lliteras extended the Lancer lead to 11 (38-27) at the interval

SECOND HALF

  • Winthrop started the stanza on a 7-0 run behind a DJ Burns layup, a Mike Anumba three, and two Hightower free throws

  • The sides traded triples for a stage, as DeShaun Wade connected from deep on consecutive possessions around a McMahon conversion on the other side (15:52)

  • Hightower was whistled for a flagrant-one intentional foul when trying to stop a Longwood run-out; Longwood made both freebies but could not capitalize on the extended possession (15:37)

  • Winthrop worked the margin to two after two Chase Claxton free throws, only for Wade to knock down another triple two possessions later to push it back to five (12:49)

  • Back-to-back Lliteras threes pushed the Longwood advantage to nine (10:11)

  • Burns picked up back-to-back whistles – one a flagrant, one a common foul – after which Zac Watson knocked down all four free throws (10:06, 9:56)

  • McMahon sliced the Longwood lead to five at 74-69 with a free throw (5:16), only for Hill to knock down two charity tries on the other end

  • Winthrop had a chance to cut the Lancer lead to a single possession just before the two-minute mark, but back-to-back missed threes and a turnover halted that chance

  • The Eagles drew within four on several occasions over the closing two minutes, but drew no closer

NOTABLE:

  • Hill's 29 were a career-high. His prior career-high was 25 against Gardner-Webb on February 12, 2021

  • McMahon's 17 were a career-best against Division 1 foes, eclipsing his prior best of 15 at Chattanooga on February 17, 2021 (20 vs. Piedmont on November 30, 2020)

  • Lliteras came within a point of equaling his career high (13 against North Carolina on December 8, 2020)


QUOTABLE: LONGWOOD COACH GRIFF ALDRICH

ON WHAT COULD BE SAID AFTER A GAME LIKE THIS: “That was a great battle. I was really impressed. I thought Winthrop played really hard. They never quit. Every time I thought we had a little bit of space, they’d come down and bang a three or make a shot – or make a play. I just thought it was really back-and-forth in the second half, with two teams really battling and no quit at all.”

ON WHAT GOT THE LANCERS GOING FROM THREE IN THE SECOND HALF: “I don’t think anything in particular. We shot 45 percent in the first half. We shot 64 percent (in the second half) – they shot 58 percent. Maybe someone put a magnet in the ball at halftime because nobody seemed to miss. I thought both teams offensively just were extremely efficient. I don’t know if it’s bad defense or really good offense – probably a mixture of both. The ball just went in for both teams, I thought.

ON THE ATMOSPHERE AT WILLETT HALL: “It’s unreal. This is an incredible college basketball atmosphere. It’s unbelievable. I’ve participated in very few atmospheres where there’s just no available seating and people standing. To think about where we were when we started four years ago to – I’m just so thrilled for the students and thrilled for the community members. I just think everybody’s having a lot of fun with it, and I know our guys are. That’s a good blessing.”

ON THE MOST FUN PART OF THE SEASON: “I think we’ve got a special group. I think the chemistry with this group has been really unique. That’s something that gets talked about because it’s impossible to quantify. The reality is that what goes on in your locker room, what goes on back at the dorms or your houses, that translates onto the court. I think you see a really unselfish and very balanced team. I joked with the team just a minute ago. I said, ‘(forward) Leslie (Nkereuwem) had a huge game on Wednesday, and so he needed to take tonight off.’ Nate comes in and makes huge threes. Justin did Justin things. Isaiah was really strong. We just had great contributions across the board. That’s what’s really special. There’s contributions from everybody. You can even look at Jaylani Darden, who got a few minutes and snuck in there and got an offensive rebound and a stick-back. I just think there’s a great vibe right now with the group.”

ON JUSTIN HILL: “He makes my job a lot easier […] I’ve talked about it a lot. Justin’s just grown a lot. Last year, he was in a situation where he was just playing a role, and his role was to put up some points and stuff like that. Now he’s leading the team. Now he’s – they’re icing ball screens. They’ve got a full gameplan to try to stop him. He’s still able to make smart plays. I’m just really proud of him.”

ON WHAT’S NEXT AFTER FIVE GAMES IN 10 DAYS: “In Winthrop’s defense, I think they played five in nine days. The reality is that this is a very hard stretch. This conference is so balanced – to come out and find a way to compete and battle and come out on top in every single game – with the exception of one – is a real challenge. It says a lot about their character and their connectedness and their will to win. That’s really important.”


NEXT UP: Winthrop hosts NC A&T in ESPNU's Big South Wildcard game. Tip time inside the Winthrop Coliseum is set for 7:00 Thursday. Longwood travels to Kimmel Arena to battle UNC Asheville. That game will tip at 6:30 Wednesday.


LONGWOOD 92, WINTHROP 88

WINTHROP (13-8, 6-2 BIG SOUTH): Talford 1-2 2-3 4, Hightower 5-11 4-5 16, Anumba 4-5 2-2 12, Good 0-4 0-0 0, Buggs 6-7 1-1 15, Burns 4-6 2-2 10, Jones 2-4 0-0 5, Corbin 0-1 0-0 0, Claxton 1-2 4-4 6, McMahon 5-8 2-4 17, King 1-3 0-0 3. Totals 29-56 17-21 88.

LONGWOOD (15-5, 7-0): Watson 4-6 4-4 12, Granlund 0-0 0-0 0, Wilkins 5-15 3-3 16, Wade 6-10 2-2 18, Hill 7-16 12-12 29, Nkereuwem 1-1 0-0 2, Perkins 0-2 1-2 1, Lliteras 4-6 0-0 12, Darden 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 28-57 22-23 92.

Halftime — Longwood 38-27. 3-Point Goals—Longwood 14-25 (Wilkins 3-9, Wade 4-6, Hill 3-4, Lliteras 4-6), Winthrop 12-26 (Hightower 1-5, Anumba 2-2, Good 0-2, Buggs 2-3, Jones 1-3, Corbin 0-1, McMahon 5-7, King 1-3). Fouled Out — Burna (WU). Rebounds — Longwood 30 (Hill 7), Winthrop 29 (Hightower 7). Assists —Longwood 18 (Hill 5), Winthrop 12 (Hightower 4). Total Fouls — Longwood 23, Winthrop 21. Technical — NA. A —1900.


HUSTLE STATS

Points in the paint: Longwood 28, Winthrop 26

Points off turnovers: Winthrop 17, Longwood 14 Second-chance points: Longwood 10, Winthrop 3

Fast-break points: Longwood 13, Winthrop 11


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