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Big week ahead for Winthrop Eagles

Make no mistake, Winthrop's men's basketball team knows exactly how important this week is.

That's why coach Randy Peele had an individual meeting with each of his seniors this week, just to remind them.

The time is now.

The Eagles (8-13, 5-5 Big South) kick off a crucial week in conference play tonight against Liberty. They needed overtime to beat the 10th-place Flames at their place two weeks ago, but getting back home could solve a lot of problems.

Under Peele's watch as head coach, they're 45-33 in conference play. That includes a 28-11 mark in the Winthrop Coliseum, with a 17-22 road mark. But this has traditionally been a good place for them. They're 288-129 all-time in the Winthrop Coliseum (.690 winning percentage) and 155-35 (.816 percent) over the past 13 seasons.

So getting Liberty tonight and a rematch with sagging High Point Saturday is just what the Eagles need to climb back into the upper reaches of the conference standings. They need to get both, because they're followed by three straight road games at Radford, VMI and Campbell, by which time the seedings for the conference tournament will be in much clearer focus.

"It's a big week, no doubt," Peele said. "That's why we're talking, just so everybody knows how big it is."

The Eagles were a battered team when they came in off the road last week.

A dispiriting 77-66 loss at Charleston Southern capped a five-game, 10-day stretch which saw them on fumes. But with two days off and some mental work since, there's no reason not to be fresh.

They can only hope they're sharper when they return to action.

The loss at CSU was an ugly one, in which Winthrop recorded no assists and turned the ball over 17 times. With point guard Reggie Middleton fouling out late, the Eagles were directionless

That overshadowed the fact shooting guard Andre Jones finally got back to himself.

After making just 16 of 52 shots in his previous four games, he hit 11-of-19 against the Buccaneers for a game-high 26 points.

But Peele knows he's going to need more than jump shots to win, making a point of emphasis to re-establish his post game, which was largely missing at Charleston.

George Valentine's productive run stopped with a five-point night, and forward Matt Morgan was back in the starting lineup for the first time since early December, but was limited to two points in 14 minutes.

"That's what we need," Peele said. "We've got to get back to who we are on offense, and those guys are going to have to step up."