ROCK HILL, SC–Dequesha McClanhan scored 25 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead the Winthrop women to a 70-61 home victory over Saint Louis on Monday night and give the Eagles their third straight win to open a season for the first time in 31 years.
The Eagles gained revenge for a 62-52 loss at Saint Louis last season and improve to 3-0 while the Billikens fall to 2-2.
For about 22 minutes of the game, it appeared that Saint Louis was going to end Winthrop’s winning streak as the Billikens opened up an early 21-11 lead with 11:36 left in the first half as the Billikens chewed up Winthrop’s interior defense repeatedly with layups. Saint Louis took a 33-25 halftime lead and held a 22-6 advantage in points in the paint. Winthrop, which never held the lead in the first half, still trailed by nine at 36-27 with 18:27 left in the game. That’s when the complexion of the game totally changed.
Winthrop used a 27-10 surge during a 10-minute stretch of the second half to turn a nine-point deficit into a an eight point lead. McClanahan got the run rolling with a couple of free throws and sophomore center Schaquilla Nunn scored back to back buckets inside to draw Winthrop to within four points at 39-35. Freshman Erica Williams, who was named Big South Freshman of the Week for the second time earlier in the day, made it a two-point game at 39-37 with a power move inside at the 15:43 mark. Saint Louis responded by getting two 3-pointers from Jamesia Price and Desirae Ball sandwiched around a free throw by Olivia Jakubicek to go up 46-41 at the 11:47 mark, but Winthrop went on a 15-0 run thanks to its pressure defense to take a 56-46 lead with 8:54 left in the game.
A layup by McClanahan at the 10:35 mark following a steal and lead pass by Tiffany Charles gave Winthrop its lead of the game at 47-46.
“Saint Louis played us very tough,” said Winthrop head coach Kevin Cook. “They are a quality opponent from a strong conference. I am really poud of our team and my two seniors. They did a tremendous jo b. Dequesha (McClanahan) continued to work her magic on both ends of the court and Tiffany (Charles) came in and gave us a big lift when we were down nine. She came in and totally changed the complexion of the game with her defense, made a couple of steals and got some run outs.”
After being rebounded by one and dominated in the paint during the opening period, Winthrop looked like a totally different team in the second half. The Eagles outrebounded the Billikens by 13 in the second half for a 48-36 advantage and outscored SLU 18-10 in the paint in the final 20 minutes. By being able to free Nunn up inside in the second half the Eagles shot 50 percent as a team and ended the game at 37.3 percent (25-67).
Williams finished the game with her third striaght double figure performance with 19 points to go along with nine rebounds, five assists and two steals. Nunn scored 14 despite a tough shooting night and grabbed eight rebounds.
Winthrop will return to action on Saturday when it hosts William & Mary at 1:00 p.m. in the first game of a double header with the men’s team who will face Virginia Intermont at 4:00 p.m.