ASHEVILLE, NC—Freshman Erica Williams fueled a 19-0 second half run and finished the game with 21 points and 14 rebounds as Winthrop remained undefeated in Big South Conference action with a 68-49 road win over UNC Asheville Thursday night in Kimmel Arena.
The win improves Winthrop to 9-3 overall and 4-0 in league play while Asheville drops to 5-9 and 2-3.
Williams, who recorded her second double-double of the season, connected on 10 of 12 field goals and came up with nine points during that second half surge after Asheville had erased a seven-point halftime deficit to tie the game at 40-40 with 14:04 left in the contest. Just after the Bulldogs’ KJ Weaver had tied the game for the first time with a layup, Williams responded with a bucket inside the paint at the 13:42 mark to spark the run.
Dequesha McClanahan, who missed a triple double by two rebounds, gave the Eagles some breathing room with a 15-foot jumper to make it a four-point game. With Schaquilla Nunn on the bench with foul problems, sophomore Pamela Decheva sandwiched two three-point bombs around another Williams’ layup to make it a 55-40 lead. McClanahan converted two free throws and Williams scored on a 10-foot baseline jumper to up Winthrop’s lead to 19. A three-pointer by Brittany Gwyn ended Asheville’s drought with just over eight minutes left in the game. After another three ball by Decheva, the Eagles had their largest lead of the night at 66-45 with just over five minutes remaining.
I want to credit the poise of our team and the play of Pamela Decheva who gave us a shot in the arm during that stretch,” said Winthrop head coach Kevin Cook. “I also want to credit Erica Williams. The score was tied, and she went on a one-woman wrecking crew. She was special tonight and shows why in my mind that she’s one of the top freshmen in our conference.”
Cook called the win a great team victory. “It took everybody playing 40 minutes and I am proud of this team. Let’s keep it going,” he said. “It’s going to take everyone contributing for the rest of the season. We were focused. Samiya Wright started the game with a bang and we just continued to play the Winthrop style of basketball. They made a run, but we kept our poise and never had a doubt. The team knew it was going to win the game.”
Besides Williams’ game-high 21 points, McClanahan finished with 13 points and also dished out 10 assists to go along with eight rebounds. Wright finished with 14 after her hot start. The Bulldogs were led by Paige Love with 11 while Gwyn had 10.
Behind the hot outside shooting of Wright and the inside scoring of Williams and Nunn, the Eagles looked as though they were going to run away with the game early. Winthrop doubled up the Bulldogs, 24-12, after the opening nine minutes of the game. With Wright bombing away from the perimeter, Winthrop connected on eight of its first 11 shots and scored on its first eight possessions.
After Williams scored off the opening tip, Wright scored eight straight points for the Eagles and made back-to-back three-pointers to give her team a 10-5 lead in the first 2:30 of the game. After a Nunn layup, a short jumper and layup by Williams, and a jumper by McClanahan, Winthrop led 20-9 with 14:22 still remaining in the period.
A 15-footer and two free throws by Wright boosted the lead to 15 at 29-14 with 8:31 left. Winthrop took its largest lead of the half when Zoe Vernon came off the bench after Williams was whistled for her second foul and she immediately nailed a three to give the Eagles a 34-18 advantage, but over the final six minutes of the half, Asheville outscored Winthrop 11-2 to close out the half. Winthrop connected on just five of its final 25 shots of the first half.
Winthrop finished the night connecting on 38 percent (25-660 from the field and was a perfect 11 of 11 from the free throw line. For the second consecutive game, Winthrop held an opponent under 25 percent shooting as Asheville finished at 24.6 percent (15-61). The Bulldogs also shot well from the free throw line as they connected on 15 of 16 shots.
Winthrop will jump right back into Big South play on Saturday when the Eagles travel to Gardner-Webb for a 3:00 p.m. tip off.