There's an adage that simply says "it's not how you start, but how you finish."
Winthrop's women's basketball team started 2007 with a bang, posting an 8-3 record and winning its first tournament since becoming an NCAA Division I member.
However, in the last two games of the year, the Eagles fizzled, dropping games at Wichita State and George Mason. It's not the losses that have frustrated coach Bud Childers as much as the lack of enthusiasm, especially on the defensive end.
"We haven't defended, and that's affected our game," Childers said. "It's clear that this is a team that has to play well on the defensive end.
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"Our offense is inspired by our defensive play. When you guard people your basket seems much bigger because there's not as much pressure to score."
Tonight, Winthrop makes its shortest road trip of the year, a 32.7-mile, 45-minute bus ride up I-77 and I-85 to Halton Arena on the campus of UNC Charlotte.
The 49ers (8-7) got off to an abysmal start under first-year coach Karen Aston, losing their first five -- to Pittsburgh, Penn State, Arizona, Wake Forest and Old Dominion -- on the road. Since then, they've gone 8-2.
Charlotte is led by 5-9 senior guard Sabrina Gregory and 6-5 junior post player Danielle Burgin, who are averaging 11.9 and 11.8 points per game, respectively. Four other 49ers are averaging 6.5 points or higher. Burgin is the team's leading rebounder at 8.9 a game.
"We're playing a team that had a difficult schedule early on," Childers said, "but they seem to have turned things around. They've got talent and they always play great at home. If they're not the best team we've played, they're in the top two."
WINTHROP (8-5) AT CHARLOTTE (8-7)
• When: 7 p.m.
• Where: Halton Arena, Charlotte
• TV: None
• On the Web: winthropeagles.com, click on "Listen Live."
• Winthrop probable starters: G Yvonne van Daalen 5-9 Jr. (5.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg); G Tiffany Rodd 6-0 Jr. (11.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg); F Ashley Fann 6-0 Jr. (12.4 ppg, 5.7 rpg); F Franchesca Davenport 5-11 Jr. (5.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg); C Ashley Haugtvedt 6-2 Jr. (7.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg).
• Charlotte probable starters: G Erin Floyd 6-0 So. (8.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg); G Sabrina Gregory 6-5 Jr. (11.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg); G Aysha Jones 5-8, So. (4.7 ppg, 2.5 rpg); G Traci Ray 5-5, Jr. (7.6 ppg., 3.1 rpg); C Danielle Burgin C, 6-5, Jr. (12.0 ppg, 9.2 rpg).
• Game Notes: Losing two straight and dropping to 8-5 has to be disappointing to Winthrop coach Bud Childers, but he can take solace in the fact that through 13 games last season, the Eagles were 3-10 ... Charlotte's Kelsey McAdoo, a 6-3 redshirt freshman, is the niece of former North Carolina and NBA great Bob McAdoo ... Tonight's game is the last of a four-game road trip for the Eagles, who will close out the pre-conference season with three home games starting Jan. 12 against Converse ... Charlotte leads the series 17-1 ... Losses to Wichita State and George Mason marked the first time the Eagles had suffered back-to-back setbacks this season.
• Next Up: Winthrop travels to Longwood on Wednesday, 7 p.m.