The Winthrop women’s basketball team eventually stiff-armed Gardner-Webb Thursday night in a 57-52 Big South Conference grinder in Rock Hill.
Kevin Cook’s team held Gardner-Webb to just 29.5 percent shooting from the floor, blocked 10 shots and made 10 steals, crucial defensive developments considering the Runnin’ Bulldogs out-rebounded Winthrop 51-34.
“Every doggone break in the action and media timeout, I was saying ‘Guys, we’ve got one area to improve on, and that’s rebounds,’ ” said Cook afterward. “We’re not gonna overlook it.”
Defense had been the focus of the week in practice since Monday, about 90 percent of the time according to Cook.
“All we did was work on defense in practice and I think we took it to heart and we shut them down today,” said Winthrop guard Samiya Wright.
Dequesha McClanahan, who has mastered the no-look pass, led all scorers with 19 points, while adding seven rebounds and six assists. Freshman Erica Williams finished with another double-double, 10 points and 11 rebounds, and Wright scored 14 points, hitting some timely shots in an otherwise uneven shooting night.
“Samiya Wright hit every big shot we needed,” said Cook. “She delivered in the clutch.”
The hosts, wearing pink jerseys and shorts in honor of their guest assistant coach, Rock Hill teen cancer survivor Emily Elkins, used a 12-2 run early in the second half to carve out some breathing room in a scrappy contest, then held on late when Gardner-Webb came charging back.
The win, Winthrop’s fourth straight, keeps the Eagles (17-6, 11-3) atop the Big South standings, a half game ahead of High Point (10-3 in Big South), which beat Campbell Thursday night.
“It was a fabulous team victory, and obviously it keeps us right in the hunt,” said Cook. “But there’s a lot of games left to be talking about hanging on to first place.”
Gardner-Webb held McClanahan to 10 points on 4-of-23 shooting when the Runnin’ Bulldogs dropped Winthrop 69-56 on Jan. 4 in Boiling Springs, N.C.
“I would say last time I kind of slipped up and let them get in my head,” said McClanahan. “So, this time I just thought about my team, thought about myself and pushed through.”
“I thought she played one of her better games of late, and controlled the action,” said Cook.
It was McClanahan’s end-to-end drive and lay up that gave the Eagles a 26-25 halftime lead, after a labored first 20 minutes where both teams struggled to shoot accurately. Gardner-Webb didn’t hit its first field goal of the game until 5 minutes, 34 seconds had elapsed, but free throws kept the game close.
Rick Reeves’ team had another barren patch in the second half and Winthrop stretched its lead to as much as 12 points (53-41) with 4 minutes, 54 seconds left on Williams’ bucket. Gardner-Webb put together an 8-0 spurt to slice the lead to four (53-49) with 1 minute, 50 seconds left, but turned the ball over on its next possession, before Schaquilla Nunn blocked Jessica Heilig’s shot with 35 seconds left. Wright then feathered in a pair of free throws to seal the win.
“A lot of people in the stands were probably looking at me like, ‘Why isn’t that guy calling timeout,’ but that’s just not my style,” said Cook, about his reaction to Gardner-Webb’s late run. “I trust my players.”
GARDNER-WEBB 52 (13-9, 8-5): Catrina Green 5-9 3-4 13, Olivia Parker 4-9 2-2 10, Jasmine Dale 2-8 2-2 8, Candace Brown 1-5 2-2 4, Lana Doran 0-6 0-0 0, Jessica Heilig 4-14 2-3 11, Tabby Koerner 1-3 1-1 3, Mayhana Dunovant 1-4 0-0 3, Doreen Richardson 0-2 0-0 0. Rebounds: 51 (Green 11, Parker 10). Assists: 7 (Jasmine 2). 3-Pointers 4-19 (Dale 2-8). Blocks: 3 (Heilig 2). Fouled Out: None. Total Fouls: 10.
WINTHROP 57 (17-6, 11-3): Dequesha Mcclanahan 8-16 2-2 19, Samiya Wright 5-15 2-2 14, Erica Williams 5-15 0-0 10, Taylor Calvert 3-4 0-0 8, Schaquilla Nunn 1-5 0-2 2, Tiffany Charles 1-5 1-2 3, Ronata Rogers -0 1-2 1, Brianna Boyd 0-0 0-0 0, Pamela Decheva 0-1 0-0 0, Zoe Vernon 0-1 0-0 0. Rebounds: 34 (Williams 11). Assists: 13 (McClanahan 6). 3-Pointers: 5-13 (Calvert 2-3). Blocks: 10 (Nunn 5). Fouled Out: Calvert. Total Fouls: 13.
Eagles men batter Barber-Scotia
Winthrop swept past Barber-Scotia 92-62 in non-conference men’s basketball action Thursday night.
Winthrop (12-10, 5-4 Big South), wearing pink socks and sneakers in support of breast cancer awareness, was never really troubled by the Sabers (0-24), who had three substitute players, one coach, and no fans sitting in their section. The game was a makeup after the two teams’ first meeting on Jan. 4 was postponed because members of Barber-Scotia’s team were stuck in the northeast due to extreme winter weather.
Making up the game, in the midst of the Big South Conference schedule, was possible because of the odd schedule this week. Winthrop played at Liberty on Tuesday, instead of the normal league night of Wednesday.
“They were great in terms of trying to find a date to make it up,” Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey said about Barber-Scotia. “This one immediately came to the forefront because it’s in the middle of an unorthodox week. If you were gonna do it, this was the best time to do it.”
Brandon Vega and Keon Johnson led the Eagles with 13 points each. Keon Moore added 12 points in just 10 minutes of action, while Jarad Scott added nine, and Joab Jerome and Christian Farmer eight each. Donavon Carter, Carlin Bremner, Hunter Sadlon and Vega all played season-high minutes.
“This time of the year, everybody is banged up, every team; nicks and sprained ankles and chapped lips and stuffy noses, ” said Kelsey. “We were able to get a lot of guys, who are gonna play important roles, a lot of game minutes.”
Barber-Scotia’s Joe Barnes made a nifty head-fake and swished a pull-up jumper in the lane to put the Sabers up 2-0 moments into the game. But the visitors, who arrived at Winthrop Coliseum about 15 minutes before the tip-off, missed their next 11 shots. Winthrop built a 16-3 lead during that nearly eight-minute stretch and never looked in the rear mirror.
The Eagles steadily pulled away as the game wore on, and the gulf in class between the two teams was made clear.
A “We want Hunter” chant started with about six minutes left in the game and the walk-on, who had previously played just three times this season was eventually inserted into the game with over four minutes remaining. There was enough time for him to rip down a rebound, then find Bremner for a baseline jumper that he knocked down. And when Sadlon hit the first of two free throws with 34.6 seconds left, the crowd let loose its biggest roar of a two hours.
Percentages: FG .455, FT .615. 3-Point Goals: 4-13, .308 (Benton Jr. 3-6, Scott 1-2, Horn 0-1, Jordan 0-2, Parson 0-2). Team Rebounds: 5. Blocked Shots: 0. Turnovers: 21 (Scott 6, Horn 5, Benton Jr. 4, Parson 2, Marshall, Bowser, Barnes). Steals: 10 (Benton Jr. 3, Horn 2, Bowser, Marshall, Scott, Parson, Jordan). Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .567, FT .650. 3-Point Goals: 11-24, .458 (Johnson 3-5, Moore 2-4, Farmer 2-5, Vega 1-1, Jerome 1-2, Bremner 1-3, Smith 1-3, Davenport 0-1). Team Rebounds: 3. Blocked Shots: 3 (Carter, Scott, Prescott). Turnovers: 13 (Jerome 3, Carter 2, Vega 2, Scott 2, Farmer, Johnson, Davenport, Brown). Steals: 9 (Jerome 2, Vega 2, Prescott 2, Johnson 2, Davenport). Technical Fouls: None.
A—710. Officials—Lee Kluttz, Chas Vaden, Clyde Hill.
Bret McCormick • 803-329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T