Winthrop took the floor without its leading scorer against a tough non-conference opponent Saturday, but the Eagles picked up the slack with career-high games.
Erica Williams, who averages almost 15 points per game, was unable to play due to a high ankle sprain, but the Eagles got career-highs from Aliyah Kilpatrick, 23 points, and CiiCii Buford, 11, to defeat Davidson 75-60 at Winthrop Coliseum.
“At the end of the day, someone has to step up,” said forward Schaquilla Nunn. “It’s not really a one-person type team. If one’s down, another person can always pick up, and today that was CiiCii. Any one of us is capable of having our star night.”
The Eagles (5-3) got off to a rough start from the floor without Williams, but rebounded as the half unfolded.
Winthrop went on an 11-4 run over an eight-minute span, holding Davidson (3-6) without a field goal for nearly five minutes.
Kilpatrick led the Eagles with 10 points in the first period, adding five rebounds and two assists. Nunn contributed six points, eight boards and two blocks in the half. Davidson’s Hannah Early paced all scorers with 11 points, though she missed her final five shots of the period.
The Eagles hit five of their first seven shots to start the second half, with two Zoe Vernon threes helping to transform a 27-22 Eagle deficit into a 10-point Winthrop lead at 42-32 nearing the 12-minute mark.
The teams traded baskets for several minutes, with Davidson eventually shaving the lead to seven, 50-43, with eight minutes to play.
The Wildcats failed to draw closer, however, as the Eagles’ defensive intensity locked down Davidson’s shooters. Early converted one of her seven shots in the second half, and her final six three-point attempts of the game did not fall.
“We knew she was a shooter. We talked about that in our practices leading to the game. It was just about getting our rotations right and knowing that someone was there to close out on her,” Buford said.
Early led Davidson with 13 points, with Lillian McCabe and Dakota Dukes adding 11. Mackenzie Latt added 10, along with 11 rebounds. Davidson shot 34.2 percent from the floor, hitting just 28 percent from three.
Kilpatrick’s 23 points paced the Eagles, with Nunn earning her fourth double-double of the season with 15 points and 16 rebounds.
Nunn added six blocks. Buford contributed 11 points and Vernon 10 to the Eagles’ effort.
Winthrop shot 53.1 percent in the second half after the somewhat sluggish start.
“They met the challenge that was given to them at the half,” coach Kevin Cook said. “I’m very proud of this win. It was a team win.”
Buford said of the halftime message, “Shoot the ball with confidence. We had open looks in the first half, so it was just about knowing that we could make them, and that’s what we did.”
The win was Cook’s 50th as Winthrop’s head coach.
Winthrop returns to play next Friday at 5 p.m. against George Mason in the Wichita State Classic in Wichita, Kansas.