The 2010-2011 Winthrop men's basketball season might best be described using the coach's own word.
The Eagles finished with a losing record (13-17) and an early exit from the Big South Conference tournament. That is not what coach Randy Peele or the Eagles' fans wanted, or expect, from this program.
Peele was obviously bothered by Tuesday's 78-73 result at VMI that put an end to a frustrating year. He fought for the right words to summarize the year.
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He said, "You have no idea how much it hurts."
He called the team's 9-9 league record "unacceptable" and used the same term to convey his thoughts on losing in the first round of the conference tournament.
In hindsight, this season was in trouble before it even began. Peele talked about the personnel issues he and his staff dealt with, on Tuesday's postgame radio show with play-by-play man Dave Friedman.
The 2009-2010 season saw the Eagles win the conference tournament to advance to a ninth NCAA tournament in 12 years. The coming months decimated this season's front court.
The team lost center Andy Buechert to graduation and then reserve forward Chris Malcolm, who had played in 30 games, decided he would transfer. That was followed by the May 2010 suspension of Charles Corbin who sat out the fall 2010 semester. The final straw came when top recruit, 6-foot-9 Martaveous Smith, was ruled academically ineligible in August.
Smith enrolled at Tallahassee (Fla.) Community College but is no longer at the school. He is no longer part of Winthrop's plans.
Winthrop entered the season with two experienced post players - George Valentine and Matt Morgan - and a pair of newbies, Julius Francis and Derrick Scott.
Valentine, a redshirt-junior, played in 29 games and turned in his most productive season. He averaged 6.8 points and 7.2 rebounds a game.
Morgan was the second-leading scorer for the Eagles in 2009-2010. He started the first 16 games but struggled to find his offensive rhythm. He came off the bench the second half of the season and collected 7.1 points and 4.3 boards per contest.
Francis and Scott combined to score 17 points in 23 games.
Corbin came back from his suspension to become the team's most reliable scorer and rebounder. He scored 10 or more points in his final 15 games and had 10 double-doubles in 22 outings. His final stat line had him at 11.5 points and 8.5 rebounds a game.
Peele disagreed at times with Corbin during his four years on the court. Usually it had to do with what Peele thought was an effective range of the forward's jump shot. Corbin wanted to extend that range beyond the 3-point arc. Peele wanted to use Corbin's toughness inside the paint.
Corbin was a 24 percent 3-point shooter for his career.
Trailing by three points with 26 seconds left at VMI on Tuesday, Peele drew up a play for Andre Jones to take a game-tying 3-pointer. Jones had hit a 3 from the corner two possessions earlier. Peele said he felt like he needed to run a different play for Jones to get a shot off near the top of the key.
Jones was closely guarded with 14 seconds on the clock. He passed off to Corbin who was open on the wing. Corbin took the final shot, and missed, with 12 seconds remaining.
"They backed off Corbin," Peele admitted. "He had to take that shot."
Corbin made a game-winning 3-pointer at Gardner-Webb this season.
That shot was a contested, falling-away prayer that was answered. Tuesday night's shot was simply a good look that didn't fall.
This team had to rely too much on jump shots. Guards Reggie Middleton, Andre Jones and Robbie Dreher had to score points every night.
Winthrop has not been a good outside shooting team in recent seasons. This season was no different. Opponents packed into tight zone defenses and dared the Eagles to make jump shots.
Dreher had a breakout sophomore season. He led the team in scoring at 12.7 points per game. Middleton and Jones, both juniors, averaged 11 and 10.7, respectively.
Too many times this team let leads slip away, or saw players get into early foul trouble, and miss critical late free throws.
This team lost eight consecutive road games during one stretch. Free throw shooting cost the squad several games. The Eagles' final 11 games were decided by seven points or less. They lost seven of those games by a total of 22 points.
Winthrop would have been a deeper team with Malcolm and Smith. Those two certainly could have helped the team get through Corbin's suspension. Maybe they could have helped get this team rolling.
The Eagles got a pair of back-to-back wins and a season-best win streak of just three games. You have to go back to 1997-1998 to find a Winthrop team that failed to put together a string of wins. That team finished 7-20 in former coach Dan Kenney's final season at Winthrop.
Peele knows the potential this season could have held with a full roster. He said the way it ended isn't up to his standards.
In four seasons as Winthrop's head coach Peele owns a 65-62 overall record and is 40-28 in Big South games. He is 9-3 in conference tournament games. Only former Winthrop coach Gregg Marshall can top Peele's three Big South tournament titles.
Mediocre is spot on for the 2010-2011 Eagles.
The coaching staff has three strong recruits - power forward Fred Mattison, point guard Andre Smith and forward James Bourne - on board for next season. A junior college big man can move this team back to the upper echelon; where Peele and the Eagles expect to be.