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Winthrop keeps rolling, runs streak to seven straight in blowout of Upstate


Kelton Talford notched his fourth double-double of the season in Thursday's victory over Upstate. (Photo: Winthrop Athletics)





ROCK HILL, S.C. – This is supposed to be the time of year when teams slow down, lose their legs, and see the energy meter draining.


Don’t tell Winthrop.


The Eagles, having already clinched the second seed in the Hercules Tires Big South Tournament by virtue of a South Division title, placed four scorers in double figures Thursday night en route to an 89-59, nationally televised victory over USC Upstate.


Winthrop broke open an early tied game with a 16-2 run that separated the Eagles from the Spartans, who entered the game in third place in the South and in contention for a first-round tournament bye.


“I think we’re now hitting that right form,” said Winthrop guard Russell Jones. “We just kept shooting. Shooting slumps are a part of basketball. All the great players go through them. As a team, we kind of went through that.


“It’s been good for us to see the ball go in.”


The Eagles led by 18 at the half, and never saw their lead shrink inside that mark in the second half. The energy with which Winthrop has played of late showed itself in the effort.


“Our coaches are not letting the foot off the pedal. We don’t practice too long, but we still have competitive segments,” Jones said. “That’s what’s giving us our edge.”

The edge led Winthrop to its seventh win in a row and eighth in its last nine games.


HOW IT HAPPENED


FIRST HALF

  • Upstate took a 2-0 lead on a Khydarius Smith bucket, then were squared at five off a Kelton Talford layup (18:04)

  • Winthrop took a five-point lead at 12-7 on a Cory Hightower triple (14:40), before a 5-0 Upstate run again drew the game level with 12:01 to play

  • The Eagles severed the tie with another Hightower triple, starting a 16-2 Winthrop burst that doubled the lead (6:39)

  • Upstate used a 6-0 run – four of those points coming from the charity stripe – to slice the Eagle advantage to nine (3:06)

  • Winthrop closed the period on an 11-2 burst to take a 43-25 margin to the interval

HALFTIME STATS

Winthrop: 57.1% FG (16-28), 66.7% 3FG (8-12), 75% FT (3-4), 1.303 PPP (33 trips), 54.5% scoring, 18.2% turnovers

Upstate: 37.5% FG (9-24), 16.7% 3FG (2-12), 62.5% FT (5-8), .758 PPP (33 trips), 36.4% scoring, 30.3% turnovers


SECOND HALF

  • Upstate scored the first two buckets of the stanza before Kelton Talford knocked down two free throws and threw home a thunderous dunk to neutralize the spurt (18:03)

  • Russell Jones dropped a triple at the 16:22 mark that afforded the Eagles their first 20-point advantage of the night (53-32)

  • Upstate’s Jordan Gainey collected his third foul at the 13:30 mark, followed by his being assessed a technical for opining on said call and heading to the bench with four fouls

  • Sin’Cere McMahon put home a three that gave Winthrop its largest lead of the night at 27 (67-40) with 11:17 to play

  • Upstate went on a 7-0 run to knife the lead to 20, but two more Talford free throws pushed the lead back over 20 (9:26)

  • Winthrop kept Upstate from drawing any closer, with a Nate Buss free throw at the :11 mark providing the final margin


FINAL STATS

Winthrop: 53.7% FG (29-54), 59.3% 3FG (16-27), 71.4% FT (15-21), 1.290 PPP (69 trips), 53.6% scoring, 21.7% turnovers

Upstate: 37.9% FG (22-58), 15.4% 3FG (4-26), 64.7% FT (11-17), .831 PPP (71 trips), 39.4% scoring, 22.5% turnovers


NOTABLE

  • Talford finished two points shy of his career-high (22 against Radford earlier this season) while recording his fourth double-double of the campaign

  • Winthrop’s 16 threes were a season-high (previous high 15 in a victory over Furman) and one off the school’s D1 record

  • Winthrop’s 40 threes over the last three games mark their best three-game stretch of the season, beating the 35 they tallied between Washington State (Nov. 22), Washington (Nov. 27), and Hartford (Dec. 1)

  • Upstate’s four triples mark the third-lowest against a Winthrop opponent this season (Carver 2, Radford 3)

  • Hightower’s 22 marked a season-high, eclipsing his prior high of 19 against Hartford

  • Winthrop would collect its first unbeaten season at home since 2006-07 with a victory Saturday


NEXT UP

Both schools close their 2021-22 campaigns at home Saturday. Winthrop battles Charleston Southern in a 2:00 tip. Upstate hosts Gardner-Webb in a 4:00 start inside the Hodge Center.

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