CONWAY — Erica Williams and Dequesha McClanahan scored 21 points each and Winthrop held Coastal Carolina to 20 points below its season average on the way to a 77-53 Big South Conference road win at the HTC Center on Monday night.
The win improves Winthrop’s record to 12-4 overall and 6-1 in the conference, and sets up a battle for first place on Thursday night at home against co-leader Liberty. Coastal Carolina, which came into the game averaging a league-leading 73.9 points per game, drops to 8-8 on the season and 4-3.
Winthrop had one of its best shooting performances of the year, finishing at 52.5 percent from the floor on 31 of 59 and went five of 12 from beyond the 3-point arc. The Eagles’ zone defense limited the Chanticleers to 35.1 percent (20-57) and forced Coastal into 22 turnovers.
Williams finished the night with her third double-double of the season as she added a game-high 11 rebounds to her 21 points, and she connected on 9 of 11 field goals. McClanahan was back in the groove, also, as she knocked down 9 of 16 shots, dished out eight assists, grabbed eight rebounds and made six steals. Samiya Wright was also in double figures for Winthrop as she finished with 16. Only one Chanticleer reached double digits as AJ Jordan, one of the top three scorers in the conference finished with 11, six below her average.
“We are not a senior-laden team, but we are an experienced team. The truth of the matter is we have only two seniors, and I thought everyone who played tonight contributed,” said Winthrop head coach Kevin Cook. “It was fun to watch us play energized, inspired basketball. I saw it in the last three practices and I felt that the bounce was back in our step and we had that laser focus tonight,” he said.
“What I couldn’t be happier about tonight is that we held a team that was averaging nearly 75 points and holding them in the 50s.”
With Wright on fire in the first twenty minutes, Winthrop jumped out to a 34-24 halftime lead. Wright scored 14 of her 16 points in the opening period before McClanahan and Williams scored 15 points each in the second half. Those two scored two early baskets in the second half to put Winthrop up by 14 at 38-24. After Coastal’s Kayla Cook made it a 13-point game at 42-29 on a short jumper with 17:24 left, Williams took over as she scored nine of Winthrop’s next 10 points to give the Eagles their largest lead of the game to that point of 52-35.
The lead quickly went to 24 after Schaquilla Nunn scored inside and McClanahan added five quick points on a jumper and a three-point play to give Winthrop a 59-24 lead. Nunn was back in the starting lineup after missing three games due to a sore knee. She finished with six points, four rebounds and two blocked shots in 15 minutes.
Winthrop led by as many as 30 points twice. Pamela Decheva made it a 68-38 lead with 8:10 left in the game when she connected on a three-pointer. McClanahan gave the Eagles their final 30-point margin with a steal and full court drive for a layup to make it a 70-40 game.
The Eagles return home to host Liberty at 7 p.m. on Thursday.