There are times when a basketball coach has to worry about other things beyond the Xs and Os, and Winthrop's Randy Peele faced one on Sunday afternoon he'll think about until about 10 tonight, after his Eagles get through playing at Charleston Southern.
Tonight's 7:30 game at the Charleston Field House will be Winthrop's third game in six days. On Sunday, as the Eagles went through a light workout at the Winthrop Coliseum, Peele was concerned how his team would react so soon after playing and beating Coastal Carolina on Saturday night.
"This is our first Monday playing after a Saturday, while they've played a bunch of these," Peele said. "I wonder how we'll respond, especially in the last 10 minutes of the game."
Tonight's game will mark the seventh time the Bucs have played two games with only a day's rest in between.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
The Eagles (13-7), 4-1 in the Big South Conference, don't need a stumble right now. They've won five straight and stand a game back of unbeaten UNC Asheville (5-0) in the league race. They play the Bulldogs on the road on Saturday.
Tonight's game is a matchup of defensive-minded veteran team, Winthrop, against a young, offensive-minded team. The Eagles win with defense. The Bucs, starting four freshmen, are trying to win by getting quick shots, lots of 3-pointers and a bunch of points.
"It's a little bit like playing VMI," Peele said. "It's another team averaging 75 points a game."
Charleston Southern (7-13, 1-4), which has lost three straight and eight of the past 10 games, is playing an up-tempo style under coach Barclay Radebaugh. Peele expects a fast-paced game, which is why the Eagles went through a light workout on Sunday, doing a walkthrough on the Bucs and working on free-throw shooting.
The free-throw work was particularly important, considering the Eagles are last in the Big South in free-throw shooting and have made 37-of-81, 45 percent, the past four games.
The message to the players afterward was "get off your feet" and be ready for the Bucs.
He won't be surprised if the Bucs toss up 40 3-pointers. Only VMI, which takes more 3-pointers than any team in the country, has launched more deep shots in the league than the Bucs. Radebaugh has given his team, particularly freshmen Omar Carter and Jamarco Warren, the green light from almost anywhere inside the Charleston city limits.
He has 11 players averaging at least 11 minutes per game and at times has substituted five players at a time to keep the tempo up.
"I think (coach Radebaugh) will try and run 10 guys at us in the first 30 minutes and try and wear us out," Peele said. "The bench is going to be a factor early, and I've got to get them into the game."
If Saturday's effort by the reserves in a 65-43 rout of Coastal Carolina is any indication, the Eagles should be fine. Byron Faison, Justin Burton, Andy Buechert and George Valentine played solid minutes against Coastal.
And the Eagles also got 15 points and seven rebounds from 6-7 freshman Charles Corbin. With another size advantage inside, Corbin could prove big again tonight.
Freshmen will be factors tonight.
A freshman has led the Bucs in scoring in 15 of 20 games, with Carter (15.4) and Warren (14.5), two athletic wing players, holding the hottest hands. Both are in the running for league freshman of the year. They've stolen some of the spotlight from 6-1 senior Chris Moore (12.9), who has been one of the top players in the Big South but came off the bench in Saturday's 86-73 loss to UNC Asheville.
"I'm not fooled by his average," Peele said of Moore. "He's still an all-conference caliber player."
Winthrop will try and control the tempo of the game with defense, and it's been doing that better than anyone in the league over the past four games. The Eagles have allowed an average of 47.5 points during that stretch, while holding teams to 34 percent shooting overall, 29 percent on 3-pointers and forcing 19 turnovers per game.
"Defense is their game," Coastal coach Cliff Ellis said Saturday, after the Eagles held his team to a season-low 43 points. "They take away what you do."
Against the trigger-happy Bucs, the Eagles will have to be on their toes, because some of their shots come when least expected. That means they aren't the best shots, but sometimes those shots go down.
While the Bucs want a running game, Peele says the Eagles will try and accommodate them -- but only when it's in the Eagles' best interest.
"We've got to run when we want to," Peele said, "and we've got to walk when we want to walk."
Part of that, Peele said, "is not taking some of the same shots they take."
Tonight's game is the beginning of a crucial five-game stretch for the Eagles. They play the next three (Charleston Southern, Asheville, Coastal) and four (Liberty) of the next five on the road, with the lone home game a rematch with High Point, the only team to beat them in the conference.
The past three seasons, no Big South team has been better on the road.
"By the time we get to Feb. 13," Peele said, "we'll have a pretty good idea of where we are."
• Winthrop Gameday • 2B