Winthrop University

Winthrop Eagles rally for Big South win over Campbell

In a top-heavy Big South Conference, every win is big.

Winthrop erased a 13-point second-half deficit and pulled away from Campbell for a 71-63 win Saturday.

Winthrop (10-9, 5-3) remains in the thick of things in the Big South. Five league teams entered the day with 5-2 records.

The loss was the seventh straight for Campbell (7-14, 1-7).

Winthrop took its first lead, 46-44, on Keon Moore’s 3-pointer in front of the Eagles’ bench. Moore got the ball in the corner. He pump faked, moved to his right and nailed the open shot.

Moore, who finished with 18 points, didn’t have his best day shooting. It took almost 14 minutes for the Eagles’ leading scorer to get into the scorebook.

But with 13:17 left in the game, Moore saw his point guard, Andre Smith, dribbling the ball down the left side of the lane and felt at ease.

“Every time Smitty drives to his left, he seems to find me in the corner,” Moore explained. “It’s something we work on all the time. We worked on it (Friday) night. I feel so relieved when he gives me the ball there. I think that’s where most of my threes come from.”

Smith and Moore, the only active seniors on the roster, combined for 41 points on Saturday. Smith scored 23. That’s the most productive Big South scoring effort of his career, and just three points off his career-best.

Smith scored 18 points after intermission on 7-of-9 shooting. With a 48-44 lead, Smith drove left and was shoved away from the basket. No foul was called but he heaved up a backward shot over his right shoulder. The ball found the bottom of the net and the crowd roared.

Smith made shots when the Eagles needed them.

When Campbell’s Andrew Ryan hit the last of his four triples with 2:27 left, it cut the Winthrop lead down to three at 62-59. Smith followed with a deep triple of his own and the lead was back to a half-dozen.

Ryan finished with 14 points. Reco McCarter also had 14 for the Camels.

Smith credited a big crowd for helping lift the team. Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey gushed about the crowd.

“That was the story of the game,’ a jacked-up Kelsey said afterward. “That crowd was phenomenal. It’s the kind of crowd you dream about and what this program can become.”

The team drew its largest crowd of the year, 2,804. And it was loud.

Winthrop fell behind early. Shots weren’t falling for the home team and Campbell’s modified Princeton offense was baffling the Eagles. The Camels were up 13-2 five minutes into the game.

“We continued to play hard,” Smith said. “We knew we had to get stops and not rush our shots on offense.”

Kelsey thought the fans played a part in the comeback. A perfect 13-for-13 effort from the free throw line in the second stanza didn’t hurt, either.

“The crowd’s energy was awesome,” Kelsey repeated, over and over. “When we took the lead and the crowd got up and got loud. I’m still shaking. That gives this place a whole different atmosphere.”

Winthrop won consecutive Big South games for the first time this season. The Eagles will play at first-place Coastal Carolina (15-5, 6-2) on Wednesday night. The Chanticleers were 65-52 winner over Presbyterian on Saturday.