ROCK HILL, SC—The Winthrop men’s basketball team hosts the Virginia Military Institute Saturday, Jan. 25 at 4 p.m., looking to go 4-2 in the Big South Conference.
The Eagles are 9-8 overall and 3-2 in the league after making their way through the first round of games against their fellow South Division opponents. Winthrop begins its trip through the North Division beginning with a VMI squad that is 10-8 overall and has the same 3-2 mark in league games.
Winthrop will be taking donations at the door for the Wounded Warrior Project, and in addition, the 178th Engineer Battalion from Rock Hill will be honored for their continuing efforts in Operation Enduring Freedom during a pregame ceremony prior to tip-off.
Members of the 178th Engineer battalion and all other military and their immediate families will be admitted free to both games.
So far the Eagles are 1-1 at home in league games while on the season they’ve posted a 6-2 record at the Winthrop Coliseum and have won 13 of the last 16 at home, including seven of the last 10 against league opponents.
This game will feature the league’s top scoring offense with VMI scoring 90.2 in league play and the league’s best scoring defense as Winthrop is allowing 68.8 points per conference game.
The Eagles have shown their ability to score as well and feature four players averaging in double-figures led by redshirt junior Keon Moore. The 6-5 guard is coming off his worst game shooting since his season debut on Nov. 23 as he finished with five points at Asheville on Wednesday. He had scored 20 or more points in the three games prior as he is now scoring 12.2 per game followed by freshman Keon Johnson at 11.9 points, junior Andre Smith at 11.4 points and senior Joab Jerome at 11.2 points.
Johnson has shown the ability to score off the drive and from behind the arc. He is second on the team with 32 threes and is shooting 41 percent from three. He has been very good when getting to the foul line as he’s 48-for-56 (86 percent). Smith is also a deep threat as he leads the team with 47 threes and has made seven in his last two games. He is also a good free throw shooter at 82 percent and his mark of 42 percent from downtown ranks 34th nationally. Jerome has proven to be able to score from anywhere on the court this season as he’s added a consistent three-point shot to his game. The 6-5 forward is shooting 48 percent from the floor, 46 percent from three and is third on the team in steals. He missed two games and returned in the win over Coastal Carolina as he made a steal on one end and then assisted on the game-winning shot on the other. He led the Eagles with 13 points at Asheville and has 14 assists in his last four games played.
This game will mark the 27th meeting between Winthrop and VMI but will be the last regular season meeting in the Big South as VMI will be headed back to the Southern Conference starting in the fall of 2014. Winthrop is 14-12 against the Keydets all-time but have lost three straight and five of the last six meetings.
The Keydets feature the top scoring freshman in the conference in QJ Peterson at 20.3 points per game. Peterson is second on the team with 40 threes made and leads the team with 90 free throws as he shoots 32 percent behind the arc and 73 percent from the foul line. Peterson is coming off 25 points in the overtime win against High Point and has reached the 20-point mark for the 10th time this season.
Peterson is the top scorer but not as well-known as teammates Rodney Glasgow and D.J. Covington. Glasgow, a senior guard, has been a key player for a couple of years and is averaging 18.2 points and leads the team with 45 threes. He is also averaging 5.11 assists per game, which ranks 4th in the league. Covington is the reigning Big South Conference Defensive Player of the Year. The 6-9 forward averages 16.2 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.56 blocks per game (36th nationally). He’s scored in double-figures in 17-of-18 games played this season and six times has reached 20 or more points.