John Adams, the National Coordinator of Mens Basketball Officiating for NCAA, and Joe Forte, the Big South Conferences officiating czar, were seated at press row Wednesday night for the Winthrop-Coastal Carolina mens basketball game at Winthrop Coliseum.
You know what came next from officiating trio Mark Schnur, Jason Goldenberg and Forrest Sigler: their whistles blew and sounded and shrilled, until the little bells nearly blew out.
The teams combined for 49 fouls and 59 free throws, as nonstop whistles disrupted the flow of the game and made it a Big South battle of attrition. In the end of a game with 14 ties and 15 lead changes, Winthrop (15-11, 8-5) had the most men standing and emerged with a 75-65 win.
Thats been part of our M.O., that weve been deep, said Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey. We had five guys in double figures. Theres no gaudy numbers in there; its the sum of the parts that makes our team really good.
The rivalry matchup was tied at 55 all with about 8 minutes left to play. Winthrop outscored the visiting Chanticleers 20-10 from there, with junior forward Larry Brown, who had a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds, and freshman Josh Davenport contributing clutch buckets during the stretch run. The other four Winthrop starters besides Brown all scored in double figures as well. Andre Smith led the way with 16, Keon Moore added 13, Joab Jerome 11 (and eight rebounds) and Keon Johnson 10.
Velvet lefty Warren Gillis poured in 25 points for the Chanticleers (16-11, 9-4), hitting 14 of 15 shots from the foul line and taking advantage of the tight officiating. Gillis made his living from the charity stripe, while Brown made his on the offensive backboard, seven of his 11 rebounds coming on Coastals defensive end. That contributed to 15 second chance points for the Eagles and 12 more field goal attempts than their opponents, crucial on a night when they only hit 7 of 22 from 3-point territory.
I thought the difference in the game, really and truly, I thought Browns seven offensive rebounds, that was really critical, said Coastal coach Cliff Ellis.
Kelsey was thrilled with Browns performance, his third or fourth really good outing in the last month.
Theres not a lot of guys that have the capacity to be a difference maker on the defensive end, said Kelsey. But he has that.
A clarification: the game wasnt unevenly called. Everything was called, and on both teams. Winthrops depth paid off as Kelseys team was able to spread the fouls around, while the Chanticleers were not as fortunate. Coastals starting point guard Josh Cameron was the most costly casualty of the closely officiated contest. He drew his fourth foul at around the 15-minute mark of the second half and sat on the bench for a nine-minute stretch, finishing with nine points; Coastal is now 0-6 this season when all three of its starting guards, Elijah Wilson, Gillis and Cameron, dont score in double digits.
Huge, huge, huge, said Ellis of the mounting foul trouble his side faced in the second half. We were playing on a limited budget.
Still, the visitors were right there with a shot to win at the end. Gillis pair of free throws cut Winthrops lead to 62-59 with over 4 minutes to play, but Davenport and Brown hooked up for a nifty interior give-and-go that produced an easy bucket, before Brown made a heads-up steal, one of his three in the game, intercepting an outlet pass after everyone had turned their back and run down court. His ensuing finish at the rim made it 66-59 with just over 2 minutes left.
That definitely wasnt in our system, said Kelsey with a grin, referring to Browns vigilante defensive play. Sometimes youve got to go with it and let him do what he does. That was one of the game-clinching plays.
From there, the Eagles hit their foul shots and iced a huge win, one that pulled the streaking Chanticleers back into the chasing pack of Winthrop, Gardner-Webb and UNC Asheville, who all won Wednesday night and are a single game behind Ellis group.
Bret McCormick • 803-329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T