Winthrop's DJ Burns tallied his first career double-double in Saturday's victory. (Photo: Winthrop Athletics)
ROCK HILL, S.C. – A lot has happened in Winthrop basketball history between 2007 and 2022. Five banners hanging from the rafters help tell that story.
That 2006-07 season featured an NCAA Midwest Regional appearance and a tournament victory over Notre Dame. It also featured an undefeated home campaign in the Winthrop Coliseum. No Eagle team since could match that feat – until Saturday.
It wasn’t pretty at times, and it wasn’t easy, but Winthrop gave its four seniors – Pat Good, Drew Buggs, Nate Buss, and Mike Anumba – a great gift. The Eagles won game number 13 at home.
Four Eagles finished in double figures – including the first double-double of DJ Burns’ storied career – in tandem with 12 three-pointers to turn aside a competitive Charleston Southern team, 92-86, before an announced crowd of 2,378 in Winthrop Coliseum.
“The things that our seniors have done in a Winthrop uniform – for however long they’ve been here – have been remarkable across the board,” Winthrop coach Mark Prosser said after the game. “It was about celebrating them. I think we did that and we enjoyed that.”
Charleston Southern (5-24, 1-15 Big South) seized control early, with a Tahlik Chavez triple countering an early bucket from DJ Burns and giving the Bucs a lead that would grow as high as eight. CSU maintained its lead for much of the period, before a Sin’Cere McMahon triple off a Winthrop steal leveled the game at 26 with 7:31 to play in the half. Another Chavez triple returned a one-possession lead to the Bucs with 5:40 remaining.
Winthrop (21-8, 14-2) took control to close the half, going on a 7-0 run to convert the deficit to a four-point lead. Deontaye Buskey sank one of his five first-half threes to slice the margin to a single point, before Winthrop again stretched its lead to six on two separate occasions. The Eagles took a 47-43 advantage to the interval.
Buskey’s 17 points in the period paced all scorers, with six of his nine tries (5-for-8 from distance) splashing the cords. Chavez added 13 for the Bucs on a 5-for-7 performance. Good (11 points) and Buggs (10) guided the Eagle offense in the opening 20. Both teams eclipsed the 50 percent shooting mark in the half.
“They’re talented. We were fortunate to win down there,” said Prosser of CSU. “They put on an absolute shooting display. We were trying all sorts of different things to try to slow them down after they got into their rhythm. At the end of the day, they played really well.”
The teams continued their fiery shooting efforts as the second half began. CSU – who shot at a 70 percent clip at one point in the half – worked an eight-point Winthrop lead into a 56-55 score off an 11-2 run capped by another Buskey three. The game drew tighter from there, with neither side able to separate by more than two possessions for a prolonged stretch.
The tension continued as the seconds slowly drained from the clock. Charleston Southern maintained a small lead for nearly 10 minutes of the second half, before Buggs capped a 6-1 Winthrop burst with a layup that drew the game level with 3:58 remaining. After the Bucs seized a three-point advantage, Cory Hightower dropped a triple that again squared the contest at the three-minute mark.
Winthrop never trailed from there, knocking down eight free throws in the final 2:35 to help salt away the outcome. Charleston Southern drew within four on a Deontaye Buskey corner jumper but could not draw any closer.
Burns’ double-double paced the Eagles in both scoring and rebounding. The hometown star poured in 22 points on 10-of-12 shooting to go with his 11 boards in 26 minutes of play. Buggs tallied 17 on 7-of-9 from the floor. Good added 15 in 24 minutes, with McMahon contributing 10. The Eagles shot 57.1 percent (32-for-56) from the floor, knocking down 12 threes in 31 tries. Winthrop also hit 16 of its 20 free throw attempts.
“I think (honoring the seniors) was part of the motivation for him,” Prosser said of Burns. “DJ’s good. He goes and makes plays down the stretch. He’s difficult to match up with. Even out of a double-team, he can still be effective.”
Buskey’s 28 led all scorers, with 10 of his 15 shots (6-of-10 from distance) finding their mark. Chavez added 22, hitting 8-of-12 from the field and 6-of-8 from beyond the arc. Taje Kelly also notched a double-double for Charleston Southern, scoring 15 points and hauling in 13 boards. Claudell Harris added 14 in a 6-for-13 effort.
Both teams now move on to the Big South Conference tournament in Bojangles’ Coliseum in Charlotte. CSU will be the 12th seed and will square off with UNC Asheville Wednesday afternoon. Tip time will be around 2:00 (Eastern). Winthrop will do battle with the winner of seventh-seeded High Point and tenth-seeded Hampton. High Point and Hampton play at 6:00 Wednesday, while the Eagles will battle the winner at 6:00 Friday.