Winthrop freshman Erica Williams scored 25 points and pulled down a season-high 16 rebounds to lead the Eagles to a 59-48 Big South Conference road victory over Charleston Southern on Thursday night in the CSU Buc Dome.
The win gives Winthrop a sweep of the regular season series with CSU and improves the Eagles to 15-6 overall and 9-3 in the conference while the Buccaneers drop to 8-13 and 4-8.
Playing without the services of sophomore center Schaquilla Nunn for the second straight game due to the flu and with Dequesha McClanahan playing, but under the weather as well, Winthrop went to Williams, its freshman horse inside, to put away Charleston Southern.
Williams, who has been named Big South Freshman of the Week for the past two weeks and five times overall this season, gave notice that she wants to make it three awards in a row with the way she performed. The 5-10 forward was primarily responsible for Winthrop’s 27-22 halftime lead as she reached her third straight double-double in the first 20 minutes with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
She scored nine of Winthrop’s first 12 points in the game to give the Eagles and early 12-5 lead and then finished off the contest by scoring 11 of the final 16 points to break CSU’s spirit. Three during the second half, the Bucs pulled to within four points and both times Williams answered on the offensive end. Just after Rochelle Brophy made two free throws to make it a 47-43 game with 6:36 remaining, Williams came back to score in the paint to make it a six-point lead.
CSU pulled to within four with 5:43 left on a three-pointer by DJ Fowler, but Williams answered with a pair of free throws. Tatum Jarvis then cut it back to four points at 52-48 with two free throws at the 5:09 mark, but again Williams answered with a free throw.
CSU did not score again over the final five minutes of the game while Winthrop iced the victory by scoring all six of its points over the final 2:35 from the charity stripe.
“Erica Williams is a special person and a special player. She’s on a hot streak right now. She’s very humble and she just kept playing. It was an incredible effort,” said Winthrop head coach Kevin Cook.
In addition to Williams, the Eagles got double digit scoring from Samiya Wright with 12. McClanahan, who was not at full strength physically, scored a season-low eight points on 3 of 14 shooting, but did pull down eight rebounds. “I’m going to call an ace and ace, a lot of other players wouldn’t have been playing the way she was feeling tonight, but she toughed it out and helped us to a win,” said Cook.
The Eagles got another big defensive and rebounding effort from Taylor Calvert who was a warrior on the boards with 10 rebounds and took three offensive charges.
“She is the guts and the glue of the garnet and gold,” said Cook about Calvert’s play.
After holding Charleston Southern to just 24 percent shooting in its first meeting back on Dec. 30, the Winthrop defense did an even better job this time around as the Bucs connected on just 21 percent overall (12 of 58) and 21 percent from behind the arc (7 of 34). Winthrop’s defense limited them to just five second half field goals with four of those coming from long distance.
“I was especially pleased with the defense,” said Cook. “We did this without Schaquilla again who had five blocks and was an integral part of us holding them to 49 points in our first meeting. This performance shows that our defense is evolving.”
Winthrop did not exactly burn the nets either as the Eagles finished the night shooting just 35 percent (20 of 57) and made only one of nine 3-pointers.
The Eagles will be on the road again on Saturday when they visit Presbyterian College in Clinton, SC for a 2 p.m. game.