Before they took the court against High Point on Saturday afternoon, Winthrop's players got a lecture about resilience, about bouncing back from that crushing loss at Coastal Carolina on Wednesday, when a last-second shot by Michael Jenkins didn't go down.
And just to help them along, the coaching staff replayed the final seven seconds of the 62-61 loss at High Point on Jan. 12. After Antwon Harris' shot at the buzzer rimmed out, the players got to see once more the fans storm the court and the Panthers celebrate like they'd won a title.
On Saturday, needing a win to stay alive in the regular-season race, the Eagles bounced back, shutting down the Panthers in the second half and winning 62-54.
The win gave the Eagles (15-9, 6-3) sole possession of second place in the Big South Conference and kept hopes alive of catching UNC Asheville for the regular-season title.
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"That (the replay) was motivation," Jenkins said, after being the point man in a defensive effort that was classic Winthrop basketball. "Coach (Randy Peele) told us we're 11 seconds from being 8-1 in the league. We know we should have won those games.
"But college basketball has its ups and downs. We accepted the challenge today."
Peele always sets a defensive goal for his teams before each game, and on Saturday he wanted to limit the Panthers to 57 points. They beat the goal and held High Point 17 points under its per-game average.
Arizona Reid, who came in averaging 23.5 points and 11 rebounds, was held to a season-low 10 points and seven rebounds. Reid, with Mantoris Robinson doing most of the defensive work with a help from freshman George Valentine, missed 11 of 16 shots and got to the free throw line once.
And Mike Jefferson, after putting up 18 first-half points, was held to one in the second half, with Jenkins playing 19 minutes of shirt-to-shirt defense. After hitting 5-of-8 eight shots in the first half, Jefferson got just three looks in the second, all misses. He didn't have a field goal after the 7:46 mark of the first half.
"Their defense and ball hawking affected our offense in the second half," High Point coach Bart Lundy said, "and we had guys who didn't have as good a game as anticipated.
"Jenkins was maybe the difference in the game. We were not able to get into our offense with him at the point of the defense."
Lundy said Reid, who fouled out in the last minute, "sometimes gets to high" for games and that might have been part of his problem. That and Winthrop's defense.
"They did a good job of digging down on him in the low post," Lundy said, "and sometimes when things don't go his way, he gets way down."
Still, the Eagles had to bounce back at the half, too, after trailing 34-31 at the break and Jefferson making shots from everywhere. But unlike in their three league losses when other teams went on second-half runs, the Eagles were the ones who jumped out in the second half.
They went on a 12-3 spurt to take a 50-41 lead. Valentine, who finished with eight key points and four rebounds, provided the exclamation point to the run when he threw down a two-handed dunk off a Robinson miss. They might have been the most important points of the game.
"I saw Manny go to the hole," Valentine said. "Coach keeps telling us to crash the boards. I just went for it."
And Jenkins went after Jefferson.
"I tried to play him the same way," Jenkins said, "but in the first half he couldn't miss. In the second half, I tried to deny him the ball once the shot clock got down to 10 seconds."
Without Jefferson and with Reid struggling, the Panthers couldn't find a go-to guy. The Eagles extended the lead to 10 and the Panthers got no closer than six the rest of the way.
The Eagles continued their woeful free throw shooting, hitting just 18-of-31; otherwise, the margin would have been wider.
Peele was also glad to see Taj McCullough bounce back with a 10-point, five-rebound game, and he also got nine points each from Charles Corbin, Chris Gaynor and Harris, who also added six rebounds.
The Panthers (13-10, 5-4) dropped into a tie for third place, and Lundy said his team would have to change its focus and get ready for the conference tournament in March.
"UNC Asheville has to stumble a lot to be caught," Lundy said. "The disappointing thing about this loss is we had been getting better, but I thought we took a step back today, particularly in the second half."
They took a step back with a little defensive push by the Eagles, who have held seven conference opponents under 60 points.
"It was an ugly game," Peele said, "but it was a Winthrop game. It all started with (Robinson), who did a great job on Reid. And the other thing he did was scored 12 points, get six rebounds and go six of seven from the line.
"Jenkins was solid. Defensively, we were very, very good. Offensively, we were good enough to win."
And Peele hopes the mindset will be predictable when practice starts today.
"Mentally, I didn't know where we were," Peele said. "On Thursday we looked depressed, and we had some of that same hangover on Friday. But these kids have never been 5-3 in the league.
"I'm really proud of our toughness."