About a month ago, Winthrop was coming off a disappointing loss to High Point and facing a difficult road game at Presbyterian.
After a miserable performance in a 42-40 loss to the Panthers, the Eagles took the short trip to Clinton and picked off the Blue Hose 54-53 in overtime. At the time, it looked like a huge win. It moved the Eagles to 2-3 in the Big South Conference and seemed to establish momentum for the early-January run.
The Eagles face the Blue Hose at 2 p.m. today in the Winthrop Coliseum, coming off another disappointing effort in a 63-56 loss at High Point. But with just two weeks left in the season, coach Randy Peele's team needs a win more now than the last time the Eagles saw Presbyterian.
Winthrop (6-18, 5-9 Big South) has lost five straight, including four in league play, and desperately needs something positive to happen before the conference tournament the first week in March.
The Eagles are seventh in the standings, one win ahead of Coastal Carolina, and two games back of Gardner-Webb for sixth.
Since beating Presbyterian, the Eagles have lost seven of 10 games. Coach Gregg Nibert's Blue Hose (10-14, 7-6) have since gone 4-4 and are fifth in the league standings. While Presbyterian is not eligible for the conference tournament, their games count in the standings and will help determine any ties.
A Winthrop regular-season sweep could be important.
In the first game, the Eagles got 13 points and the game-winning 3-pointer from Andre Jones. They also got good efforts from George Valentine, Raymond Davis, Justin Burton and Chris Malcolm. Cameron Stanley, the Eagles' leading scorer at the time, did not play.
Peele used 10 players that day, and nine scored.
Both teams have changed in a month.
The Eagles are without guard Reggie Middleton, who had eight points and seven rebounds in 31 minutes in the first game. Burton, who had six points in 14 minutes in the first game, is starting.
Winthrop's Mantoris Robinson, who played 42 minutes in the first game, is still not 100 percent healthy after back and ankle problems.
When the teams met in January, Bryan Bostic, Presbyterian's 6-foot-3 senior, was seeing his first action after missing seven games with a hand injury. He had just six points in 20 minutes, but in the eight games since has averaged 13.7 points, with six double-figure games. He's back in the starting lineup.
But Peele knows everything the Blue Hose try to accomplish on offense runs through 6-8 center Al'Lonzo Coleman, who averages 14.4 points, 8.2 rebounds and shoots 51 percent.
"He's the most patient post player in the league," Peele said. "The slower he plays, the more effective he is.
"They understand what they want to do. Everything goes through Coleman."
Coleman had 20 points and nine rebounds in the first meeting, but the Eagles did a nice job holding him to 10 field goal attempts. He made four. But he also got to the free throw line 16 times, making 12. The Blue Hose outscored the Eagles 23-7 from the free throw line.
Malcolm's long arms and leaping ability bothered Coleman. And Valentine played one of his best defensive games.
The Eagles also held point guard Pierre Miller, who played all 45 minutes of the first game, to four shots and three points. Middleton was the point man of the effort, but Burton helped out.
One thing about the teams hasn't changed. Those matchups will be key again in a game that's likely to be an old-school matchup of grinding offense, with a good bit of man-to-man defense thrown in.
And defense is what Peele is looking for after he was disappointed in that phase at High Point on Wednesday night. With three of the final four league games at home, the Eagles, he said, need to recapture their defensive character.
"Earlier, we were playing with a lot of confidence," Peele said, "but we've had this adversity and we're not attacking like we need to."
PRESBYTERIAN (10-14, 7-6) AT WINTHROP (6-18, 5-9)
• When: 2 p.m.
• Where: Winthrop Coliseum
• TV: None
• Radio: WRHI-FM (94.3), airtime 1:30 p.m.
• Tickets: Winthrop Coliseum box office