The usual suspects lit up the scoreboard for the Winthrop Eagles in their 70-61 women’s basketball victory over Saint Louis on Monday at Winthrop Coliseum.
Senior guard Dequesha McClanahan scored 25 points and pulled down 12 rebounds as the Eagles (3-0) rallied from an 11-point deficit early in the second half. Freshman forward Erica Williams, already emerging as a scoring threat for Winthrop, added 19 points – all but four in the second half – and grabbed nine rebounds.
But one of the biggest contributions to the victory was made by a player who could easily have gotten lost in the final box score. Senior guard Tiffany Charles scored only two points off the bench in 17 minutes of play. But her stats line included four steals which fueled a 15-0 Winthrop run in the second half that turned the game around.
“I know I’ve got to make plays on defense,” Charles said. “That’s my role. We just had to step up and play our brand of basketball.”
Eagles coach Kevin Cook was glad to see it.
“She gave us some energy on defense,” he said. “We knew we hadn’t play our best basketball to that point, and we felt like we had taken their best shot. This team really responded.”
The result was Winthrop’s third straight victory to start the season, the first time that’s happened since 1982.
“It’s great to start 3-0,” Cook said. “But right now we’re just concentrating on getting better one game at a time.”
This one started out looking like a step backwards. The Billikens (2-2), led by 16 points from forward Erin Nelson and 14 from guard Desirae Ball, dominated the first half. They held the Eagles to 26 percent shooting (9-of-35) from the field and pulled away to a 33-25 halftime lead.
But Winthrop picked up the tempo in the second half, led by an energized defense.
“We’ve been working on our press and it paid off,” Cook said. “We wanted to make the game like running downhill, so we pushed the pace and we attacked the rim until they had to try and stop us.”
The rally actually came in two stages, as the Eagles pulled to within two at 43-41 on a jump shot by Williams with 12 minutes to play. Ball hit a 3-pointer at the other end for the Billikens, and they didn’t get another basket for four minutes.
By that time, Winthrop had sprinted to a 56-46 lead with 7:54 left and St. Louis never got closer than eight points after that.
Sophomore center Schaquilla Nunn scored 14 points and grabbed eight rebounds for the Eagles, who outrebounded the Billikens 48-36.
Sadie Stipanovich scored 13 points and pulled down seven rebounds for St. Louis, which had won its previous two games.
NOTES: The Eagles host William & Mary at 1 p.m. Saturday at Winthrop Coliseum. A victory in that game would be the first 4-0 start in Winthrop women’s basketball since the 1972-73 season.
Winthrop 70, St. Louis 61
ST. LOUIS (2-2)
Olivia Jakubicek 3-9 1-3 7, Erin Nelson 7-19 1-2 16, Sadie Stipanovich 6-13 1-2 13, Jamesia Price 2-3 0-1 6, Desirae Ball 5-11 3-4 14, Halee Castleman 0-1 0-0 0, Briana Gray 0-1 0-0 0, Denisha Womack 2-5 0-0 5. Totals 25-62 6-12 61.
Schaquilla Nunn 5-19 4-6 14, Erica Williams 6-13 7-7 19, Taylor Calvert 1-2 0-0 2, Dequesha McClanahan 8-16 7-8 25, Samiya Wright 3-7 0-0 6, Tiffany Charles 1-4 0-0 2, Pamela Decheva 1-5 0-0 2, Zoe Vernon 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 25-67 18-21 70.
Three-point goals:St. Louis 5-20 (Price 2-3), Winthrop 2-9 (McClanahan 2-4). Fouled out – St. Louis: Price. Rebounds — St. Louis 36 (Stipanovich 7), Winthrop 48 (McClanahan 12). Assists — St. Louis 11 (Price 4), Winthrop 15 (Williams 5, Wright 5). Total fouls — Louis 16, Winthrop 13. Technical fouls — None. A-474