Forget Saturdays loss to lowly Longwood; the Winthrop men turned their focus to a challenging visit from Charleston Southern on Wednesday night.
Were just trying to regroup as a team, said senior guard Reggie King on Tuesday before the Eagles practiced. We just want to show people what were made of.
Beating Charleston Southern (13-8, 8-2 Big South) on the hardwood might do that. Winthrop (10-13, 4-7) hasnt lost to the Buccaneers at home in 11 years, flooring them in the Coliseum nine times (11 if you count two conference tournament victories) during that span. Barclay Radabaughs team also hasnt swept Winthrop in a two-game series since the 1996-97 campaign.
In fact, at one point from 2002 to 2009, Winthrop beat Charleston Southern in 17 straight games. But in an ever-shifting Big South hoops landscape, the Bucs are no longer a gimme. Conversely, theyre a guaranteed difficult outing because of their ability to put the ball in the bucket.
Theyre so explosive offensively, said Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey. They have a lot of weapons.
Charleston Southern has one of the shortest rosters height-wise in NCAA, but the Bucs have shaped a style of play to fit their strong suits, chiefly jump-shooting.
The way our team is made, what weve been able to recruit, were a little more perimeter-oriented, explained Radabaugh, a former Winthrop assistant coach under Gregg Marshall. A little more jump shot-dominant, which is certainly not the way Id love it to be. But its the way it is right now.
He cant have too many complaints. Charleston Southern makes 10 threes per game in Big South action, tops in the league. The Bucs have hit 10 or more in 11 games this season, hardly surprising considering 44 percent of their field goal attempts are from beyond the arc, 10th most in the nation.
They also have three of the leagues best shooting guards in sophomores Saah Nimley and Arlon Harper and senior Jeremy Sexton. Nimley and Harper each average around 15 points per game, while Sexton contributes 11. The key is the 5-foot-10 point guard, Nimley; hes scored 20-plus points 11 times, and has three games each with 10-plus rebounds or assists.
Hes extremely deceptive, hes crafty as heck on ball screens, he can get in tight spaces and tight crevasses, said Kelsey. He can get in the middle of your defense and then its Katy bar the door. Weve got to do a good job of keeping him out of the lane.
In their first meeting this season, Radabaughs team beat the Eagles 75-63 on Jan. 9 down in the Lowcountry. The Bucs had a season-low four turnovers in that contest and shot 60 percent in the second half to hold off any Eagles comeback.
Winthrop limited Nimley, the Bucs leading scorer, to just six points but he still had 10 assists and Charleston Southerns offense hardly hiccupped. Radabaugh said the lack of turnovers was coincidental, but that Nimleys contribution despite a low scoring output was anything but.
The six points, that doesnt really matter, said Kelsey, agreeing with his counterpart. (Nimley) assisted on 10 field goals, and all those field goals were wide open threes because he gets into the lane and finds shooters. He was unbelievably effective in that game.
Radabaugh said Nimleys biggest area of improvement has been in that area of leadership, of being a floor general, getting us offensively where we need to be, defensively where we need to be. Saah is able to contribute significantly when hes not scoring.
The Bucs put up nearly 76 points per game, and they do it in bunches. A 17-2 first half run against Presbyterian helped them blow out the Blue Hose by 20 on Jan. 23, while a late-game 11-2 run sparked a win over UNC Asheville Jan. 16.
In the first meeting, Winthrop led Charleston Southern 25-23 with 5 minutes left in the first half but a 12-2 run helped the Bucs build a 35-27 cushion at the break. A good start to the second half pushed Kelseys team into a 45-43 lead with about 13 minutes remaining, before Charleston Southern kicked it up a notch again, outscoring the Eagles 32-18 the rest of the way in a home win.
Our offensive consistency has been pretty good all year, Radabaugh said Tuesday morning. When we share the ball and play unselfishly, we certainly have the ability to score.
But he hastened to add: Those runs are something in college basketball that just happen; if we could plan them, wed do it a lot more often.
Teams have been surging in the second half against the Eagles all season. When Winthrop allowed Longwood to shoot 61 percent in the second half of the Lancers upset win last Saturday, it was the seventh time this season that an Eagles foe shot over 50 percent in the second half of a game.
Where we struggle is when we stop communicating, said King. When we struggle on the offensive end it usually tends to reach our defense, so we try to play hard on both ends of the court so we have no breakdowns.
The Eagles know the Bucs will make some runs. How Winthrop responds will determine whether they emerge with one of the last reminders of the heady mid-2000s, an 11-year home win streak against Charleston Southern, still in-tact.
Brown likely finished
for regular season
Sophomore forward Larry Brown showed up to practice Tuesday sporting a bright pink hard cast on his left wrist. Kelsey and the 6-foot-6 Brown confirmed that he wont get the cast off until early March, meaning hell almost certainly miss the rest of the regular season, and could be finished for the year depending on the Big South tournament, which starts March 5.
Its a different dynamic without Larry, said Kelsey of his teams leading rebounder and best post defender. Were figuring out what lineups and what we have to do schematically to make up for his loss.
Bret McCormick • 329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T