SUNRISE, Fla. -- In a Christmas Day story in The Miami Herald, Winthrop's Eagles were referred to as one of two "relatively mediocre" non-conference teams 19th-ranked Miami would face before beginning ACC play.
Saturday at BankAtlantic Arena, Winthrop proved to be a little better than mediocre, playing a near-flawless second half and knocking off the unbeaten Hurricanes (12-1) 76-70.
Seniors Chris Gaynor (21), Taj McCullough (19), Michael Jenkins (16) and Antwon Harris (12) combined for 68 points as the Eagles won their second straight game to improve to 7-5.
Jenkins and Andy Buechert had six rebounds each to give the Eagles a 33-33 draw on the glass, perhaps the game's biggest statistic.
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It was just the second win over a ranked opponent in Winthrop history, following last year's win over Notre Dame in the NCAA tournament. And it made the Eagles 2-0 against the ACC this year.
"It was an unbelievable game," Winthrop coach Randy Peele said. "I hammered home that we had been outrebounded four of the last five games and that we had to defend.
"Our goal was to hold them to 60 (points). I was off a little bit. But we played with a lot of confidence."
No one played with more confidence than Gaynor, the senior point guard, who hit 7-of-8 shots overall and 5-of-6 3-pointers for a career-high 21 points. His seven field goals and five threes tied career-highs.
Four of his 3-pointers came during an 11-minute stretch in the second half when the Eagles played perhaps their best offense of the year.
Down 38-27 with 17:49 to go, the Eagles went on a 17-2 run to take a 44-40 lead. Gaynor hit a three to start it. And after the Hurricanes tied the game for the final time at 45, Gaynor hit back-to-back 3-pointers on the end of a 15-6 run to put the Eagles in control 60-51 with 6:23 to play.
In just under 11 minutes, the Eagles outscored the 'Canes 30-11, hitting 12-of-19 shots, including 6-of-9 threes. The seniors, playing with confidence and poised, had all those points.
After shooting 32 percent in the first half, the Eagles shot 57 percent in the second, and no one was hotter than Gaynor.
"I felt pretty good today," Gaynor said. "I hit a couple in a row and it felt pretty good, so let it ride."
And that was while he was trying to shadow the 'Canes' Jack McClinton. McClinton finished with 30 points, but 11 came at the foul line and 12 came in the last 1:55 when Miami was desperately trying to catch up.
"I thought we did an unbelievable job on McClinton," Peele said.
McClinton, who offset some of his offense with seven turnovers, hit a 3-pointer with 1:39 to go to cut Winthrop's lead to 67-62 and the way he was heating up, the 'Canes had time. They also elected to foul the Eagles and they came through when it mattered.
In the final minute and a half, the Eagles hit 7-of-10, including two by Buechert, after McClinton's bucket. Gaynor also hit two.
And Jenkins finished the game off converting McClinton's last turnover into a steal and dunk for a 75-67 lead with 20 seconds to go.
It was a splendid second half that saved the Eagles after they were down 32-27 at the break. The win marked the third time this season Winthrop has come from behind at the half to win.
Winthrop led 22-13 with 9:17 to go in the first half, but fell into the Miami trap. The Hurricanes, not very aggressive defensively on the perimeter, enticed the Eagles to take quick jumpers. Winthrop missed eight straight shots and turned the ball over three times and the Hurricanes went on a 17-2 run to take a 30-24 lead with 1:30 to go.
James Dews, who had been quiet in the first 10 minutes of the game, hit three 3-pointers to spark the 'Canes. Anthony King was 6-of-6 from the field with 14 points and four offensive rebounds.
Winthrop scored just five points in the final nine minutes of the half and just one field goal -- McCullough's 3-pointer after Miami's run.
"They were forcing us out (on offense) with their defense," Miami coach Frank Haith said. "Our defense got us going. We became more aggressive."
But at the half, there was no panic in the Winthrop locker room.
"At the half, coach told us we had plenty of time," Gaynor said.
McClinton scored Miami's first six points of the second half to push the lead to 38-27, before the Eagles found their shooting stroke and some inside defense.
They did an excellent job on King in the second half, allowing just two points and keeping him off the offensive glass.
"I was glad to see us play as a team," Gaynor said. "We'd practiced hard the past two days. In the second half, we came out on fire and kind of kept it going."
The Eagles return to the Winthrop Coliseum Wednesday to face Limestone and go to Marshall Jan. 5.