The Winthrop women's basketball team, stunned by UNC Asheville 63-60 Wednesday night in the regular-season finale, has eight days to reflect, refocus and regroup before opening play in the Big South Conference basketball tournament.
If that doesn't happen it will be, according to coach Bud Childers, one and done when the tournament tips off in Asheville, N.C., on March 14.
Winthrop (19-11, 7-5 BSC) is the No. 3 seed and opens play at the Justice Center at 7 p.m. against 6-seeded Charleston Southern.
"What we played tonight wasn't tournament-worthy basketball," a dejected Childers said after the Eagles lost to a team they had defeated on the road 75-54, that was 11-17 coming in and at the bottom of the BSC standings at 2-9.
"Our starting team didn't show up tonight. I can't believe we get to the 30th game of the year, have a chance to top off a great home season and your starting group was nowhere to be found."
It was indeed a dismal night for Winthrop starters.
Ashley Fann, a preseason All-BSC first team pick, was 2-of-8. Tiffany Rodd, Winthrop's all-time leading 3-point shooter, was 0-for-6 from beyond the arc and two-of-11 from the field. Franchesca Davenport was 4-for-10, Jennifer Walker was 1-for-4 and Yvonne van Daalen was 2-for-5 and missed the front end of two one-and-ones in the last 1:25. The starters also had 10 of the 19 turnovers.
"If it hadn't been for the bench, I don't know what would have happened," Childers said of the reserves, who contributed 36 of the 60 points. "The way our starters played is disappointing to say the least."
Winthrop's strength was in reserve Wednesday.
Shanice Cole led the Eagles with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Ashley Haugtvedt added 13 points on 4-for-4 shooting from the field. Shelley Hankins added five points and four rebounds
"We got that seven-point lead in the second half and all of a sudden our team wanted to play reckless, wild basketball," Childers said. "I couldn't slow the game down. They kept making unforced mistakes and playing too fast. That's not our game. We let them back in the game by playing too fast.
"We settled for threes tonight and that's not how we play when we play well. We needed to be more patient and get the ball inside. We didn't do that and the result was a loss."
Childers said that after he watched the Lady Bulldogs, who only have seven players, warm up he went into the locker room and told his team that Asheville was ready to play.
After scoring the game's first basket, the Eagles sat back and watched the Lady Bulldogs run off 14 unanswered points.
Winthrop came back with a 16-2 run and took its first lead of the night on van Daalen's two free throws with 9:42 left. It would stay close the rest of the half with Winthrop building a 33-30 lead at the break.
The Eagles went up 43-36 with 12:59 left in the game on a pair of free throws. But Winthrop appeared unsteady and the Lady Bulldogs became the aggressors.
UNCA battled back and tied it at 52 on a layup by Ana Baker with 4:41 left. Fann countered with two of her four points. But a drive by Baker, who had 18, and a 3-pointer by Ashton Barton, who also had 18, put the Lady Bulldogs on top for good with 1:35 left.
Asheville would build the lead to five, but Davenport's jumper with five seconds to go to pull the Eagles within two. Baker missed the first free throw, but made the second to make it 63-60.
Fann tried to get the ensuing inbounds pass to midcourt, but her throw went over everyone's head and UNC Asheville got the ball back under its basket.
Baker also went deep on the out of bounds play, but Davenport intercepted, took a dribble and launched a desperation 3-pointer that bounced off the front of the rim, off the glass and into the hands of Kendall Shepard.
"I'm really concerned about how our starters played," Childers said. "It's a heck of a time to start shaking up you lineup, but we've got eight days to get ready for the tournament.
"We're definitely not in the mindset I want them to be. So we've got to go back to the drawing board."