Keon Moore scored 22 points while Keon Johnson added 16 points to lead the Winthrop men to a 71-56 win at Liberty, Thursday evening at the Vines Center.
The Eagles (9-9, 4-3 Big South) struggled from behind the arc on the evening but delivered at the foul line going 21-for-28.
The victory is the 599th for the program, and the Eagles will look for the 600th on Saturday at 4 p.m. at Winthrop Coliseum when they host Campbell.
Liberty (6-14, 0-7) was 0-10 from 3-point range, the Flames’ first game in 319 without a three, a streak dating back to 2005. Winthrop has now won seven straight against the Flames.
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“Our defense was the reason that our offense was so good,” said Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey, who was referencing how his team built a big first half advantage. “When we’re getting stops like that it allows us to get out in transition and that’s when we’re most dangerous and most efficient offensively. When we’re scoring in the open court or advancing the ball and that’s what we were doing. Our defense really fueled our offense in the first half.”
Winthrop led by 21 points in the first half and by 14 at the break but Liberty worked its way within six points with 5:20 to play in the game. However, Winthrop responded with four straight points for a double-digit lead again and outscored the Flames 17-8 the rest of the way for its second straight road win.
A 7-0 run early in the second half cut the Eagles lead to seven points, but Moore responded with a three-pointer that put the Eagles up by 10 as they held their double-figure lead for the next seven minutes and even led by as much as 14 during that stretch. Liberty pulled within seven points at the 8:34 mark when Moore answered with five points for a 53-41 lead with 7:44 to play.
Moore and Johnson were the only Winthrop players in double-figures as the team finished the game shooting 39 percent from the floor and was just 6-for-27 behind the arc. The Eagles finished with a 34-32 advantage on the boards and turned 20 Liberty turnovers into 19 points.
Liberty was led by David Andoh and Andrew Smith who had a team-high 11 points while Johnson added 10 points. Liberty finished the game at 43 percent from the field despite going 0-for-10 from three but it shot 65 percent in the second half in an effort to rally.
Liberty scored the first basket of the game when Andrew Smith drove baseline and finished with a dunk but the game turned quickly in the Eagles favor as they reeled off 16 straight points for a 16-2 advantage with 11:34 left in the half. The run was highlighted by a Derrick Henry three-point play off his own steal and then the run was capped off with an Andre Smith three-pointer and a steal by Tevin Prescott that led to a Moore layup on the other end.
The Eagles opened up a 21-point advantage with 4:30 to play in the half as they scored eight straight for a 29-8 lead as the run was finished off by back-to-back baskets inside from Xavier Cooks.
Winthrop led 29-15 at the break despite not scoring in the final 4:30 of the half. The Eagles shot 41 percent from the floor in the first half and finished just 3-for-14 behind the arc. Defensively the Eagles held the Flames to less than 10 points for the first 15:39 and kept them to 23 percent shooting and 0-for-7 from three. The 15 points allowed in the first half were the fewest against a Winthrop squad since Dec. 25, 2011 at Jacksonville and lowest in a regular season Big South contest since the 2006-07 team held Liberty to 15 first half points on Jan. 13, 2007.