The Winthrop women's basketball team hit rock bottom on Dec. 12 losing 53-16 to Southern Poly, an NAIA power coached by former Winthrop assistant Laquanda Dawkins.
The Lady Eagles committed 24 turnovers. They scored just six points in the second half and made only one of their 25 shots in the final 20 minutes.
The loss dropped the team's record to 2-6. Winthrop could have folded. Two talented freshmen players suffered season-ending knee injuries before the first game was played. A sophomore center left the team before the season began.
Instead, Winthrop regrouped and managed to even its record at 6-6 with four consecutive wins.
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"We simply went to work on all aspects of our system. The players and staff worked real hard at focusing on our team values; defense, motion offense, being organized and competing," said Winthrop coach Bud Childers, whose team begins conference play at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Winthrop Coliseum against Charleston Southern.
The Lady Eagles began to heat up over the holidays. At Stetson University in Florida, Winthrop came away with a pair of nail-biting wins in the Hatters Holiday Classic. The Lady Eagles beat Maine, 54-51, and Youngstown State, 50-46.
After Christmas, the team returned to Winthrop Coliseum to shoot a season-high 55 percent from the floor and defeat Southern Wesleyan, 93-46.
It was the first time Winthrop had beaten a team by more than 40 points since the 2003 season. That year the team defeated Southern Virginia 127-54.
That was also the last time a Winthrop team scored 90 or more points.
Two days later Winthrop topped Colorado State, 58-56, in what is being billed as the program's biggest non-conference victory in school history.
Childers doesn't credit the team's turnaround to any one player. He said he has settled on some rotations.
He pointed to better play from junior forward Ashley Cox, sophomore forward Kaitlyn Rubino, sophomore combo guard Mary Hathaway and senior shooting guard Lacey Lyons.
Cox has upped her offensive numbers in the last four contests by averaging 10.3 points and 6.3 rebounds. Rubino had a career-high 16 points against Southern Wesleyan. Hathaway has put up better than 10 points and eight rebounds in her last three games, while Lyons pumped in a season-best 24 points in the romp over Southern Wesleyan
Freshman point guard Dequesha McClanahan has become more consistent as well. She has already won three Big South Conference Freshman of the Week honors. Her last four games have produced 17.5 points, 5.5 assists and 4.8 rebounds. She is the team's leader in scoring, assists and steals.
Childers has seen a lot of improvement in the last two weeks and remains cautiously optimistic. His team is young with just nine of 13 players either freshmen or sophomores.
"We'll just have to take it a game at a time," Childers said. "Every team is different. Each team has more experience. We have to focus on one game at a time."