Winthrop forwards DJ Burns and Cory Hightower each tallied 17 in Saturday's victory. (Photo: Winthrop Athletics)
ROCK HILL, S.C. – It never seems to be easy for the Winthrop Eagles. If they keep getting the same results, though, that can be overlooked.
Winthrop survived another icy three-point effort and a persistent Presbyterian defense, escaping Winthrop Coliseum with a too-close-for-comfort, 65-61 win before an announced crowd of 2,006.
Defense ruled the day in the opening stanza. Winthrop (17-8, 10-2 Big South) broke the seal with a Sin’Cere McMahon free throw nearly a minute in, but things quickly tightened on both ends of the floor. Neither side could establish separation greater than one possession for much of the period. Presbyterian (11-16, 3-9) drew level on two separate occasions courtesy of Rayshon Harrison buckets inside the nine-minute mark.
The Eagles used a 6-0 micro-burst to seize a six-point advantage, which gradually drained to a single point over the next three minutes. Winthrop again bumped its lead to six on two more McMahon free throws, but a Winston Hill bucket just inside a minute brought the Blue Hose within four. Winthrop took that four-point advantage to the interval.
The back-and-forth battle continued as the second half commenced. Winston Hill scored the first five points of the second half for Presbyterian, pulling the Blue Hose within three. Hill’s side then got a free throw from Owen McCormack and a Trevon Reddish-Rhone layup to grab the lead, 37-35, with 12:08 remaining. The sides traded the lead much of the next six minutes, building tension among the solid Saturday crowd.
DJ Burns then took over for the Eagles, scoring seven straight points to first draw the game level and then provide Winthrop the lead. Still, Presbyterian hung tough. The Blue Hose never trailed by greater than five in the second half. Despite a Marquis Barnett triple that sliced the lead to two with 20 seconds to play, Winthrop was able to put away the game at the free throw line. McMahon sank two from the charity stripe to provide the final.
Cory Hightower – who once played at Presbyterian – tied with Burns atop the Winthrop scoring ledger. Each tallied 17 on the game. The Eagles shot 51.1 percent (23-for-45) from the deck, including a fiery 59.1 percent second half. 36 of Winthrop’s 65 points came in the paint.
Harrison paced the blue Hose with 19. Hill added 18 and six boards. The Blue Hose shot 41.1 percent (23-for-56) on the day but managed just 5-of-23 (21.7 percent) from distance.
Both teams resume play on the road Wednesday. Presbyterian makes the short drive up Interstate 26 to take on USC Upstate. Tip time in the Hodge Center is set for 6:00. Winthrop travels to regional rival Gardner-Webb. That game is slated to begin in Paul Porter Arena at 7:00.
WINTHROP 65, PRESBYTERIAN 61
PRESBYTERIAN (13-8, 6-2 BIG SOUTH): Hill 8-14 1-2 18, Ard 1-4 0-0 2, Harrison 7-18 3-4 19, Barnett 2-5 0-0 5, Reddish-Rhone 2-3 3-4 7, Stewart 1-3 0-0 2, Graham 0-1 0-0 0, McCormack 0-3 3-4 3, Younger 2-3 0-0 5. Totals 23-56 10-14 61.
WINTHROP (15-5, 7-0): Hightower 7-11 2-3 17, Burns 8-12, Claxton 2-2 0-0 4, McMahon 0-4 6-7 6, Anumba 1-2 5-6 8, Jones 0-3 0-0 0, Talford 2-4 0-2 4, Good 0-2 2-2 2, Buggs 3-5 0-0 7. Totals 23-45 16-21 65.
Halftime — Winthrop 28-24. 3-Point Goals—Presbyterian 5-23 (Hill 1-2, Harrison 2-8, Barnett 1-3, Reddish-Rhone 0-1, Stewart 0-2, Graham 0-1, McCormack 0-3, Younger 1-3), Winthrop 3-16 (Hightower 1-4, McMahon 0-3, Anumba 1-2, Jones 0-3, Good 0-2, Buggs 1-2). Fouled Out — Younger (PC). Rebounds —Presbyterian 29 (Hill/Ard 6), Winthrop 27 (Talford 5). Assists —Winthrop 10 (Buggs 5), Presbyterian 9 (Harrison 5). Total Fouls — Presbyterian 19, Winthrop 14. Technical — NA. A —2006.
Points in the paint: Winthrop 36, Presbyterian 30
Points off turnovers: Presbyterian 15, Winthrop 8 Second-chance points: Presbyterian 14, Winthrop 4
Fast-break points: Winthrop 10, Presbyterian 4
Points per possession: Winthrop 1.000, Presbyterian .968