College Sports

Panthers suffer through annual WU jinx

After his team beat Winthrop 62-61 in the Big South Conference opener, High Point coach Bart Lundy said he hoped his Panthers wouldn't have another Winthrop hangover.

Since Lundy took over at High Point in 2003, the Panthers have placed a lot of emphasis on beating the Eagles, and rightfully so. In order to get to the top of the league standings, the Panthers had to find a way to beat the Eagles.

Until their win on Jan. 12, the Panthers had lost eight straight and 20 of 21 in the series. Their lone win came in Lundy's first season.

Well, the hangover hit, and the Panthers lost games at UNC Asheville and at home to Coastal Carolina. The losses dropped the Panthers, who were the preseason pick to win the league, two games behind UNC Asheville and a game back of Winthrop.

High Point losing after playing Winthrop is nothing new, which is why Lundy was so concerned.

After playing Winthrop the first time around in league play, the Panthers have gone 0-5 in their next game. In two seasons, the Panthers dropped their next two games.

They're a little better after the second regular-season meeting with the Eagles, going 2-2.

One reason for the two-game slump this year was the shooting of guards Mike Jefferson and Eugene Harris. Against Winthrop, Jefferson hit 8-of-14 shots (6-of-9 3-pointers) and scored 23 points, while Harris hit 4-of-9 shots, including 3-of-8 3-pointers, for 11.

In the next two games, they were a combined 10-for-38, 7-for-31 on 3-pointers, for 30 points.

• TO THE BOARDS: Over the past two seasons, Winthrop has recorded 50 or more rebounds in a game five times, with three of them against VMI. They had 58 in a game against the Keydets last season and 56 on Jan. 23.

In the past four meetings with the Keydets, the Eagles have averaged 50.5 rebounds, while the Keydets have averaged just 33.2.

• FREE THROWS: They call them free throws, but they've been anything but that for Winthrop the past three Big South games.

The good news is the Eagles have gotten to the line more than 20 times a game. They've shot 62 in games against Liberty, Radford and VMI. The bad news is they haven't made many, hitting just 29. That's 46 percent.

In those three games, the Eagles have had seven one-and-one attempts and five times failed to make the first shot. They had 22 two-shot attempts and only made both shots six times. They made one shot of the two-shot fouls 10 times.

Michael Jenkins (.721) is the only Eagle making over 70 percent from the line. The Eagles, who don't have a player ranked among the league's top 15 free throw shooters, are 60 percent as a team, last in the league.

The only thing that kind of free throw shooting could do down the line is get you beat.

• HIT THE ROAD, JACK: Every team in the Big South has a winning record at home, but only UNC Asheville (4-3) has a winning road mark.

Winthrop is 2-5, 5-6 if you count a 3-1 record on neutral courts. VMI is 4-4.

Coastal Carolina, Liberty, High Point, Charleston Southern and Radford have one win each on the road and are a combined 5-38 away from their home courts.

Liberty (8-0) has the only perfect mark at home.

• BRACKET BUSTER: Winthrop and High Point will represent the Big South in the O'Reilly ESPNU Bracket Buster series Feb. 22-23.

The Eagles will host a game either Feb. 22 or Feb. 23, while the Panthers will be on the road.

There will be 14 nationally televised games from the pool of 50 matchups featuring 100 schools from the the so-called mid-major conferences. Winthrop won at Missouri State last year.

The matchups will be announced Feb. 4, with TV assignments announced Feb. 11.

• ON THE TUBE: Winthrop's home game Saturday against Coastal Carolina will be televised by SportSouth and there will be a familiar face doing the color.

Former Winthrop assistant Shaun Golden will be behind the mic, along with play-by-play man Mike Hogue.

The game tips at 7 p.m. Some schedules had the game at 4 p.m.

• 3-POINTERS: UNC Asheville is ranked 19th in this week's Mid-Major Top 25. ... Liberty point guard TeeJay Bannister tied the school's NCAA Division I record and set a Vines Center record with 15 assists in the 78-59 win over Coastal Carolina. ... Coastal Carolina's Jack Leasure didn't have a 3-pointer against Liberty, just the second time this season he's failed to hit at least one. ... With 512 career assists, Winthrop's Chris Gaynor is on track to become the Big South's all-time leader. He needs 50 to pass Coastal Carolina's Robert Dowdell (561). Gaynor also has 216 steals and needs 28 to top the all-time mark set by Campbell's Brad Childress.