Winthrop at Dayton 2 p.m., 1340 AM, 94.3 FM

Tough road challenge Wednesday for Winthrop

From staff reportsDecember 31, 2013 

For all of its offensive improvement, the Winthrop men’s basketball team still hasn’t won a game this season when turning the ball over more than 15 times. To be fair, most teams don’t.

Four of the team’s five losses this season, including all three in a recent losing streak, saw the Eagles (6-5) cough the ball up at least 15 times. In the three-game skid, Pat Kelsey’s team has turned the ball over 61 times total. The Eagles currently rank 323rd in the nation in turnover percentage, according to KenPom.com, giving the ball away on 22.3 percent of their total possessions.

The worrisome trend has cropped up just as Winthrop hits the road to face arguably its toughest opponent of the year, 10-3 Dayton, coached by former N.C. State 3-point gunner Archie Miller. It’s critical every game for Winthrop to maximize its possessions, but especially against an efficient team like Dayton that’s 7-1 at home this season.

The Flyers’ three defeats came by a combined 10 points to Baylor, Illinois State and Southern Cal, and they’ve beaten California, a ranked Gonzaga club and Georgia Tech. Miller’s crew is one of the best offensive teams in the country, and certainly no slouches on the defensive end either. The Flyers are 32nd in KenPom’s efficiency rankings (Winthrop is 225th), and have only turned the ball over more than 15 times in two games this season.

Dayton has shot the ball very well, and in addition to a decent turnover margin, the Flyers offensive rebound very well, ensuring they have extra possessions when shots don’t fall. Dayton leads the Atlantic 10 in rebounding defense allowing opponents just 30.5 per game. The Flyers are 9-2 when winning the battle on the boards. The Flyers have been strong on the offensive boards as well having averaged 15.5 per game over the last four games and 17.5 second chance points in that span as well.

The Flyers are led statistically by guard Jordan Sibert, who has shot 50 percent from the field through 13 games, while averaging a team-high 13.3 points per outing. Dyshawn Pierre and Devin Oliver are the team’s other two double-figure scoring threats, both averaging close to 12 points per game.

Freshman Keon Johnson has been the Eagles’ most consistent scorer all season. Against Hampton he poured in a career-high 24 points for his fifth straight double-figure game. The 5-foot-7 rookie has scored 15 or more points in four of the last five games and leads the team at 14.8. He's shooting 46 percent from the field and an impressive 50 percent behind the arc (26 for 52).

Senior Joab Jerome has been one of the team's more reliable scorers, but has recently struggled to get his offense going, scoring just seven points at Hampton and a season-low three points in the home loss to Wofford. Jerome has just 21 points since scoring 20 points in the Eagles win over Appalachian State. On the road Jerome has averaged 11.6 points and 3.2 rebounds while shooting 56 percent from the floor and 53 percent behind the arc (8-for-15).

Winthrop and Dayton have met just two times with both meetings coming at UD Arena and the Flyers earning the win in both. This will be the fifth trip to UD Arena as the Eagles are 0-4 all-time having dropped both of their NCAA Tournament Play-In Games.

The game will be a homecoming of sorts for several members of the Winthrop program, including Kelsey, who hails from nearby Cincinnati. Freshman Josh Davenport is also from Cincy, while fellow frosh Johnson is from Mansfield, about two hours northeast.

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