Off to its best start in more than three decades, the Winthrop men’s basketball team looks for its third straight win as it heads to Blacksburg, Va., Tuesday to take on Virginia Tech.
Winthrop has the second-best start to a season in school history at 5-1 as it looks for its second road win of the season. It is the best record to start a season since the 1980-81 team went 8-1. Virginia Tech enters the game at 5-3 and has won two straight after defeating Furman of the Southern Conference and Winthrop conference foe Radford of the Big South, both by more than 20 points.
A victory Tuesday night would give the Eagles their first four-game win streak under second-year head coach Pat Kelsey and the first for the program since the 2009-10 team, which won seven in a row.
The 69-57 victory over James Madison on Wednesday saw the Eagles’ streak of 70 or more points in a game come to an end. Winthrop had scored 70 or more in the first five games for the first time since 1992-93.
The Eagles rank third in the Big South, averaging 81.2 points per game and second in scoring margin at plus-10.3. Winthrop is shooting 48 percent from the floor and 41 percent behind the arc as the team is ranked 40th nationally in three-point field goals per game (8.3) and 34th in 3-point field goal percentage.
Against the Dukes, Winthrop had its worst shooting night of the season at 39 percent but managed 11 steals and generated 18 points off turnovers. Winthrop has scored more points off turnovers than its opponents in five of the six games this season.
Junior Andre Smith continues to lead the offense at 14.2 points per game while shooting 45 percent from the floor and an impressive 53 percent behind the arc. Smith has scored in double figures in all six games and has knocked down three triples in the last five games. Over the last two seasons Winthrop is 13-5 in games that Smith reaches double figures.
Smith is one of three Eagles averaging more than 10 points a game as freshman guard Keon Johnson is second on the team averaging 13.2 and senior Joab Jerome at 12.7. Johnson has combined with Smith as the team’s top 3-point threats. Johnson is 14 for 30 behind the arc and the two are a combined 34 for 68. Jerome is shooting 53 percent from the floor and is 9 for 15 behind the arc and is also third on the team with 14 assists.
Sophomore Tevin Prescott and junior James Bourne have been providing some offense inside lately. Prescott is averaging 8.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.5 blocks while shooting 68 percent from the floor. Bourne is averaging 7.3 points and 5.3 rebounds while shooting 57 percent from the floor.
Virginia Tech features four players averaging double figures as the Hokies average nearly 80 points a contest. Senior Jarell Eddie is tops on the team with 16.9 points and 6.9 rebounds, while shooting 41 percent from the floor 46 percent from the 3-point line. The Hokies are averaging nine made 3s per game and shooting 46 percent as a team from behind the arc.
Redshirt sophomore Adam Smith is second on the team in scoring at 15 points and is also averaging 3.4 rebounds and 3 assists. Freshman Ben Emelogu has come off the bench in all six games he’s played but has not played the last two games. Junior C.J. Barksdale is averaging 11.2 points. All four of the top leading scorers for Virginia Tech shoot 80 percent or better at the foul line with Barksdale leading the way at 93 percent.
So far this season the Hokies are 5-1 at home with the only home loss coming in the season opener to USC Upstate, 64-63. Since then the Hokies have won their home games by an average of 16.4 points with wins over West Virginia, Western Carolina, VMI, Furman and Radford.
This is just the second time Winthrop and Virginia Tech have squared off. The Hokies won the first meeting 62-55 in Cassell Coliseum in the 1998-99 season.