JOHNSON CITY, TN— Winthrop answered a 15-0 second half run by East Tennessee State with a 14-2 run of its own and hung on for a 76-66 victory, Tuesday night in non-conference men’s basketball action.
The Eagles improve to 3-1 on the year as they end a streak of nine straight losses on the road while ETSU falls to 0-4.
Winthrop led 48-34 in the second half when the Buccaneers reeled off 15 straight points to take a 49-48 lead with 12:46 to play in the game. Kinard Gadsden-Gilliard was in foul trouble with four fouls but he went off on the offensive end of the court with back-to-back threes to start the run and had eight of the 15.
Junior Andre Smith answered the Bucs run with a three-pointer for a 51-49 advantage, which jumped started the Eagles 14-2 run. Midway through the run freshman Keon Johnson drove the lane for a scoop shot in traffic for a four-point advantage and then followed that with a triple from the wing for a 58-51 lead.
Winthrop pushed the lead to as high as 14 points over the final seven minutes of the game behind Joab Jerome’s fourth three of the game and two free throws by Johnson. Defensively the Eagles held the Bucs without a field goal over five and a half minutes during the run.
“You can just rely on that kid,” said Winthrop head coach Pat Kelsey speaking about Jerome. “I said this before. He’s not a guy that passes the eye test or he’s not going to wow you with his athletic attributes but you can just always rely on him. He’s our go-to-guy. We have some potent offensive players on this team. When our backs are against the wall and need a big bucket we put the ball in hands and let him go to work.”
Jerome led Winthrop with 18 points on 7-for-8 shooting and a career-night behind the arc at 4-for-5 and also had three assists. Jerome led four players in double-figures as James Bourne had 12 points on 5-for-10 shooting and nine rebounds while Johnson added 11 and Smith had 10.
The Eagles finished the game shooting 49 percent and were 47 percent from three. Winthrop has connected on at least eight three-pointers in all four games this season.
The Eagles used a 10-3 run to end the first half for a 35-25 lead at the break. It was the first double-figure lead at the half since Winthrop’s 2012-13 opener versus St. Andrews and the first on the road since Feb. 2, 2012 at Radford when it led 38-17.
Winthrop led 25-22 after Jalen Riley drained a three-pointer with 3:28 to play in the half. Smith answered with a three-pointer from the wing as he pulled up from deep and was fouled in the process. Smith converted the free throw to complete the four-point play and lead 29-22 with just over three minutes left until half. Riley made 1-of-2 free throws to cut the lead down to six and ETSU was given the ball immediately as the Eagles lost the rebound out of bounds. Gadsden-Gilliard tried to score inside but Larry Brown came over and blocked the shot that led to a transition basket on the other end when Brandon Vega dribbled straight down the lane for the uncontested lay-up.
Brown then made it 33-23 with a jumper the foul line, but then had to leave as he was bumped during his jumper and fell hard to the floor. A couple of possessions later Isaac Banks had a stick back to make it 33-25 with 1:26 left. Winthrop scored on the other end with a lay-up by Bourne for another 10-point advantage that held to the break.
Winthrop grabbed the lead early in the game with a 6-2 advantage after Bourne was set up for a lay-up off a pass from Smith. Rashawn Rembert responded with a three-pointer on the other end and then two free throws by Gadsden-Gilliard at the 14:04 mark with put ETSU up 7-6. Jerome drained a three on the Eagles next possession and then the game was tied at 9-9 with 13:19 to play first half but a Vega lay-up put Winthrop in the lead for which it held over the final 13 minutes of the half.
Midway through the first half, Winthrop hit a mini-scoring drought after Bourne scored inside at the 9:40 mark for a 20-14 lead. That ended with a jumper made by sophomore Carlin Bremner, which made it a two possession game. It was the only basket by both teams over a four and a half minute span.
Winthrop played 12 players in the game and Kelsey mentioned that he preaches to his players to always be ready to play when called upon and the Eagles got some solid contributions from their bench. Vega finished with nine points while Tevin Prescott scored five points and had three rebounds.
Hunter Harris led ETSU with 18 points on 7-for-9 shooting while Gadsden-Gilliard added 16 points and Riley chipped in with 12.
Winthrop returns home from its two-game road trip to take on Virginia Intermont on Saturday, Nov. 23 at 4 p.m. as part of a doubleheader with the women’s basketball team that takes on William & Mary at 1 p.m. You can hear the men’s game on WRHI FM 94.3/AM 1340/WRHI.com immediately following the Clemson vs. Citadel football game (around 4p). Pre-game will begin at 3:40 on WRHI.com