Winthrop men's basketball coach Randy Peele is trying to figure out this season's team that stands at 7-10 overall and in sixth place in the Big South with a 3-4 record after losing its last two conference games.
The 2010-11 Eagles are a more potent team offensively. They are the highest-scoring team (67.4 in conference games) Peele has had in his four years at the helm. The team is also giving up points at the highest rate in the Peele era (69.6 in conference games).
"We have to get better. Our defense isn't where it needs to be," Peele said Tuesday afternoon. "I want to see a greater sense of pride in our ability to defend."
Peele said after Winthrop lost 88-67 to UNC Asheville on Jan. 6 he was going to figure out what the problems were.
After the Eagles' 69-60 loss at Charleston Southern on Saturday, the team's third setback in four conference games, Peele said, "I know what the problems are; I just have to fix them."
Winthrop players vented some frustration in the locker room at Charleston Southern before boarding the bus to head back to Rock Hill. Teammates called each other out. Tempers flared.
Peele missed most of the locker room extracurriculars while tending to postgame interviews.
"They got after each other a little bit," Peele said. "It wasn't a physical altercation. The guys have been frustrated. I think it created some more positive communication."
There's something about the visiting locker room at CSU. That's where Mantoris Robinson, a senior last season, gave a speech to his team after a loss to the Bucs.
Justin Burton, a senior guard, said Saturday's yelling match was good for the team.
"We talked about being more of a team. I think it was a positive," Burton said.
It was positive enough that the team held a one-hour team meeting after Sunday's practice to talk things out some more.
"Sunday's meeting was everyone's idea," redshirt junior forward George Valentine said. "If we had something to say, we got it out. We talked about the game and about each other. I don't care if we fight and punch. We are like family. It's all about family."
"The last two practices have really carried over after we talked,' Burton added. "They have been our best two practices of the year."
If practice makes perfect, then the Eagles can get to work on improving their conference rankings in several areas that Winthrop teams have dominated for a decade.
Winthrop is a middle-of-the-road team in the Big South in field goal percentage defense (.408, 4th); scoring defense (69.6, 6th) and rebounding offense (36.7, 6th).
The Eagles are a bottom-tier squad in rebounding defense (39.6, 8th); 3-point field goal percentage defense (.341, 9th) and rebounding margin (-2.9, 9th).
Peele was particularly concerned with the latter stat; rebounding margin.
Winthrop outrebounded opponents in 14 of its first 15 league games last season. The team was beaten on the glass once by Charleston Southern, UNC Asheville and High Point; and twice by Art Parakhouski and Radford in 2009-10.
This season Winthrop has been outrebounded in four of the first seven Big South contests.
The schedule turns in Winthrop's favor for the next five games. The Eagles host Radford and High Point. The next three contests are at Presbyterian, playing without center Al'Lonzo Coleman, at Radford and at Gardner-Webb.
Those four teams make up the bottom of the Big South standings. Their combined record in conference games is 7-28.
The five-game stretch figures to be a pivotal one for Peele and the Eagles who begin the journey at 7 p.m. Thursday against Radford (3-13, 1-6 Big South).