Winthrop got exactly what it needed in the second half Tuesday against Division II Johnson C. Smith.
The Lady Eagles were in a scoring slump against the Lady Golden Bulls until they opened the second half on a 28-8 run. The points came in a hurry, shots fell that haven't fallen since late November, and the team appeared to be having fun on the court.
Winthrop went on to win the game 61-38. It was the team's second consecutive solid defensive game. Winthrop beat Presbyterian on Saturday 47-35.
Holding teams in the 30s will win a lot of games.
The win should add a good bit of confidence for a team that was in a tailspin throughout the month of December. Winthrop will jump back into the conference schedule Saturday with a 2 p.m. home game against Liberty.
Ashley Fann and Tiffany Rodd led the way for Winthrop with 12 points each. Shanice Cole added 10 points and six rebounds off the bench, both season highs.
Winthrop coach Bud Childers wanted to get out to a quick start. The first 16 minutes didn't go as he hoped.
The Lady Golden Bulls (7-5) led 12-9 at the 10:22 mark of the first half. Winthrop scored the next six points to take a 15-12 lead. Freshman post player TaQuoia Hammick scored two straight buckets and the Lady Eagles seemed primed to take control of the game. But Johnson C. Smith battled the rest of the half and trailed 25-24 at intermission.
Childers was frustrated, shuffling players in and out of the game. There was no rhythm.
JCSU got 11 first-half points from Wendy Stywalt. The speedy guard played for the Charlotte 49ers before transferring down to DII. She finished with a game-high 20 points.
Winthrop came out for the second half on a mission to take Stywalt's drives away. The Eagles ran full-court pressure and dropped into a matchup zone. The defensive alignment negated everything JCSU tried to do offensively.
Stywalt accounted for all nine of her team's points in the first 17 minutes of the second half. Johnson C. Smith made only 5 of 30 shots in the second half and shot 21.6 percent for the game.
While the defense excelled for the second straight game, the offense began to click as well. The 61 points were the most for the Lady Eagles since they scored 68 in a Nov. 25 loss at Clemson.
Suddenly, Winthrop had the rhythm it had been working on in practice.
Fann and Rodd, seniors who have been Winthrop's two most dependable scorers since they arrived on campus, combined for 18 points in the second half on 7-of-12 shooting. Fann scored on a drive to the basket. Then Rodd buried a 3-pointer from the wing after a jumper by Jessica Fansler. Fann added a putback, and Winthrop led 34-26 shortly after halftime.
The second half was what the team needed.
"It was a good second half. We made some shots we didn't think we should make. This is the kind of basketball we have to play, right here," Childers said.
"We just made a commitment in the second half and tried to attack the basket more," Cole said. She was happy with the win.
"It feels real good. We're looking forward to Liberty," she added.
Winthrop, now 6-6, will spend the next three days preparing for Liberty. The Flames are perennially the biggest challenge in the Big South, having won 11 of the last 12 conference tournaments.
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