After her last home game was over, Winthrop forward Taylor Calvert – one of two Eagles players honored Saturday on women’s basketball Senior Day – preferred looking ahead to looking back.
“This is bittersweet,” she said after the Eagles defeated Big South opponent Coastal Carolina 81-68 in front of 496 fans at Winthrop Coliseum.
“This has been home for me for a long time,” Calvert said. “But our season’s not over yet. We’ve got three more games (two regular season and a first-round conference tournament game) and, who knows, maybe three more after that.”
That’s all still up in the air, but with its fourth victory in five games Winthrop (16-11, 12-6 Big South) locked up a first-round bye in the upcoming tournament. And they remain very much in the mix in a four-team scramble for second place in the league.
Sophomore forward Erica Williams scored 24 points and pulled down 12 rebounds, junior center Schaquilla Nunn scored 22 points, and guard Samiya Wright – the Eagles’ other senior – and guard Aliyah Kilpatrick added 14 points each.
They helped Winthrop, which never trailed, grab control of the game with a 19-2 run late in the first half. But the Chanticleers (12-15, 6-12) led by 22 points from forward Anna Vogt and 17 from guard AJ Jordan, never quite let the Eagles run away with it.
“We never quite delivered the knockout punch,” Winthrop coach Kevin Cook said. “But as long as we win, we’ll go the whole 12 rounds.”
Most of the early ones went to the Eagles, who surged to an early 12-4 lead and weathered the first of several Coastal comebacks to turn a slim 24-23 advantage to a 43-25 margin late in the half. Kilpatrick had 8 points and Wright had 4 in that run.
The Eagles led 43-30 at halftime.
“The key was on defense,” Cook said of the resurgence. “We had a few lapses in our transition defense for a while and failed to get back quickly enough. Once we did, things started going a little more our way.”
Winthrop again looked poised for a blowout when Nunn’s jump shot in the paint gave the Eagles a 57-37 lead with 14 minutes and 40 seconds to play. The Chanticleers never got closer than 11 for the rest of the game, but Cook said his team needed to close better.
“Overall we played well, and we’re happy to get the win , especially after losing to them on the road,” he said. “We shared the ball and got a lot of different people involved. But we need to play defense better.”
NOTES: Williams’ 24 points matched a season-high and was 2 points short of a career high ... The Eagles close the regular season with a pair of road games at Liberty on Wednesday and at Presbyterianon Saturday. “To a degree we still control our own destiny,” Cook said of the week ahead. “But that’s easier said than done with both games on the road. We need to play well.”