Winthrop closes 2021 with all-star effort over Converse

Updated: Jan 1

Photo: Winthrop Athletics

ROCK HILL, S.C. – Winthrop coach Mark Prosser emphasizes to his team to enjoy the wins since there’s no guarantee of when the next will arrive.

The Eagles may not have a team gathering with pizza and beverages to savor the game film of their final outing of 2021, but they will at least have a victory to celebrate.

Chase Claxton tallied a double-double as one of three Eagles in double figures, helping guide Winthrop to a 78-40 result over Division II Converse to bring 2021 to a close.

“That was my first double-double of my career,” Claxton said. “I’ve been so close.”

“Our first New Year’s resolution was to win the game today,” Prosser said with a laugh after the game. “It gets even more difficult now. We have to make sure we’re prepared for that. I thought -- for large portions of this game -- we did pretty well.”

Winthrop (7-6) trailed just once in the contest, falling behind 3-2 after Valkyrie forward Elijah Pitts converted an and-one at the 16:37 mark of the first half. That bucket would require two-and-a-half minutes before it received a companion, a Nate Gordon dunk that froze an 8-0 Winthrop burst. That dunk would not see an answer for another two minutes, which enabled the Eagles to stretch their lead to 13.

A Claxton dunk with 45 seconds remaining in the stanza made the lead its largest, giving the Eagles a 38-16 margin they would take to the interval. Both sides struggled in the period, with Winthrop hitting 33.3 percent (14-of-42) of its tries, against the 19.4 percent (6-for-31) Converse notched. The Valkyries managed just .410 points per possession in the opening half, owing both to a forceful Winthrop defense and their shooting woes.

Winthrop continued its onslaught as the second half began. Converse (4-8) pulled within 23 on a Jimmie Sanders free throw but trailed by 30 after a Cory Hightower bucket nearly six minutes later. The Eagles also utilized Valkyrie miscues to build their advantage. Winthrop compelled 18 Converse miscues through the first 33 minutes of the game, converting those opportunities into 26 points.

Despite the Eagles’ struggles from the deck, especially in the first half, the home side capitalized on the glass. Winthrop hauled in 52 rebounds – 15 offensive – to extend possessions, addressing a point of focus Prosser has emphasized through the non-conference portion of the 2021-22 slate.

“We had 14 offensive rebounds at halftime. (I told the players), let’s go get a school record. Let’s go get 30,” Prosser joked. “I told them in the locker room that they really took it to heart – we got one in the second half.

“We need to get better there across the board. We’ll start on Wednesday and go through league play, as well.”

“Against any zone-heavy team, it’s hard for them to rebound. It’s hard to rebound out of the zone, in general,” Claxton said. “A major focus was getting on the offensive glass.” Claxton snagged six offensive boards.

DJ Burns paced the Eagles with 20 points on 9-of-14 shooting in just shy of 20 minutes of game action. Russell Jones added 15 on five made three-pointers. Claxton scored 10 points and grabbed 10 caroms in 19 minutes.

Sanders scored nine to lead the Valkyrie effort. Converse hit just 13-of-53 shots (24.5 percent) and made only 5-of-25 threes.

Converse returns to Conference Carolinas play Tuesday, traveling to Emmanuel (Ga.) College. That game is slated for a 7:00 tip. Winthrop begins Big South Conference play one day later, making the trek to High Point University’s Qubein Center to do battle with the Panthers. Tip time is set for 7:00, with the game streamed over ESPN+.


CONVERSE (4-8): Burgess 2-4 0-0 4, Pitts 1-8 2-3 4, Sanders 2-8 5-6 9, Lorange 2-10 0-0 6, Warlick 0-5 2-2 2, Mitchell 3-11 0-5 7, Gordon 1-2 0-0 2, Wiseman 2-3 0-0 6, Harrington 0-2 0-0 0, Searl 0-0 0-0 0, Alexander 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 13-53 9-16 40.

WINTHROP (7-6): Hightower 3-6 1-1 7, Burns 9-14 2-2 20, Anumba 1-3 0-0 3, Good 2-6 0-0 5, Buggs 1-2 0-0 2, Jones 5-9 0-0 15, McMahon 1-3 2-3 5, Corbin 3-9 0-0 8, Claxton 4-10 2-4 10, King 1-4 0-0 2, Buss 0-2 1-2 1. Totals 30-68 8-12 78.

Halftime — Winthrop 38-16. 3-Point Goals—Winthrop 10-29 (Hightower 0-1, Anumba 1-3, Good 1-4, Jones 5-8, McMahon 1-3, Corbin 2-8, King 0-1, Buss 0-1), Converse 5-25 (Burgess 0-1, Pitts 0-3, Sanders 0-5, Lorange 2-6, Warlick 0-3, Mitchell 1-5, Wiseman 2-2). Fouled Out — NA. Rebounds — Winthrop 52 (Hightower 11), Converse 30 (Pitts/Lorange 6). Assists —Winthrop 21 (Hightower/Buggs 4), Converse 8 (Mitchell 3). Total Fouls — Winthrop 15, Converse 13. Technical — NA. A —NA.