March 1, 2009

Lady Eagles hope to sort things out as tourney looms

The Winthrop women's basketball team limps into Coastal Carolina's Kimbel Arena tonight following three straight losses. The team last won on Valentine's Day at Radford.

The Winthrop women's basketball team limps into Coastal Carolina's Kimbel Arena tonight following three straight losses. The team last won on Valentine's Day at Radford.

After that game, Winthrop was 6-4 in Big South action and all alone in second place. The three-game skid has dropped the Lady Eagles into a tie for sixth with tonight's opponent.

The lead-in to this game is similar to the first meeting at the Winthrop Coliseum which Coastal won 51-34. Winthrop had lost two straight games going into that contest. However, those losses were due to an inept offense. The most recent downturn has been a result of a faltering defense.

"We couldn't guard that chair (Saturday at High Point)," Winthrop coach Bud Childers said Sunday.

With inclement weather barreling into the area, Childers and staff moved travel plans up a day. They were originally scheduled to make the trip to Coastal Carolina on Monday morning.

Defense has been a constant for Childers' team this season until recently. Winthrop has allowed 63, 65 and 73 points in its last three games. They entered Saturday's game ranked 25th nationally in team defense.

Winthrop did the job defensively against Coastal back on Jan. 17. The Lady Eagles held the Chants to 29 percent shooting and still lost by 17. It was a game in which Coastal got to the line 17 times, but Winthrop did not earn a single free throw.

Winthrop struggled shooting the ball the entire game. The visiting Chanticleers got 29 points from their bench, mostly from Courtney Grambley and Sydnei Moss, who had 13 and 14 points, respectively.

The 34 set a school record for Coastal Carolina for fewest points allowed in a Big South game. It was the lowest point total in a conference game for Winthrop since it scored 33 against UNC Asheville at home in 2005.

"We seem to have found our offense now, but we need to get back to playing defense. We just spent an hour and a half reviewing game film (from High Point). We must have given up 20 layups," Childers said.

The flu may have a hand in Saturday's defensive lapse. It has been making its way through the team.

Leading scorer Ashley Fann played through it Saturday. She gutted it out for 17 points and 7 rebounds. She didn't participate in practice Sunday.

Childers himself had a bout with it at Radford. He thought he might not be able to coach. "I had it bad. I couldn't hold my head up," Childers said.

Winthrop and Coastal are both 6-7 in BSC play with three games to play.

There are only two certainties in the league; Liberty (13-0) is the No. 1 seed for the upcoming BSC tournament, and Presbyterian will not participate in the postseason as it transitions to Division I status.

The rest of the seedings are up for grabs.

Winthrop (12-14, 6-7 BSC) needs to win out and get some help to finish in a tie for second place. Here's the scenario: they will need Radford to lose home games to UNC Asheville and Liberty. High Point must lose at home to Liberty, and the final piece of the puzzle calls for a Coastal win at Gardner-Webb.

Maybe it is too much to expect. A No. 3 or 4 seed may be more realistic. Of course the Lady Eagles can slip all the way to a No. 7 or 8 seed if they lose to Coastal and at home against UNC Asheville and Charleston Southern.

It has been that kind of year for Winthrop. They were picked No. 2 in the preseason poll but haven't lived up to the hype. They need a strong stretch run to secure a high seed. The tournament will be played March 13-15 at the Millis Center on the High Point campus.

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