ROCK HILL, SC— Looking to remain near the top of the South Division standings in the Big South Conference, Winthrop will face its final road test of the regular season when it takes on Gardner-Webb in Boiling Springs, NC on Saturday at 7 p.m.
If any Winthrop fans are planning on attending the game on Saturday the Gardner-Webb athletic department is running a “We’ve Got Your Back-Fill A Back Pack” promotion going on as it is collecting three-ring binders (2-3 inches), leaf notebook paper, pencils and other supplies will be accepted. If you bring $5 worth of school supplies you will be admitted to the game for free.
Winthrop is tied with Gardner-Webb and UNC Asheville for second place in the South Division as all three trail Coastal Carolina by one game. The Eagles made the division race a little more interesting by knocking off division-leading Chanticleers on Wednesday night.
The Eagles are 15-11 overall and 8-5 in the league as they have 15 wins for the first time since 2009-10. A win against Gardner-Webb will ensure the Eagles first winning season since 2009-10 and the first winning record in the Big South since the same season.
The victory over Coastal Carolina on Wednesday brought the top four teams in the division closer together as the Chants now just have a one-game cushion. Winthrop had a balanced attack as all five starters scored in double-figures, led by junior Andre Smith’s 16 points. The win also gave the Eagles the season sweep of the Chants, which could come in handy for any tie-breaker scenarios.
Over the last five games the Eagles are 4-1 as four players have averaged double-figures led by senior Joab Jerome at 12.4 points per game. Jerome has shot 47 percent from the field, 54 percent from three and 79 percent from the foul line over that span.
Junior Keon Moore continues to lead the team in scoring at 12.4 per game and is averaging 11.2 points over the last five as he’s shooting just 37 percent from the field and 32 percent from three. Freshman Keon Johnson is averaging 10.6 points per game over the last five while shooting 50 percent from the field and 47 from three.
Smith’s 16 points were the most he’s scored since Jan. 11 in the win over Charleston Southern and has six double-figures games since that game (13-game span). Smith’s next three-pointer will tie him for 8th on the all-time list at Winthrop with 140.
Winthrop is seeking its fifth win on the road in league play, which would be the most since the 2006-07 was a perfect 7-0 on the road in the Big South.
Gardner-Webb enters the game at 15-13 overall and 8-5 in the league as it has won three of its last four games since dropping a four-overtime game at home to VMI on Feb. 5. The Runnin’ Bulldogs are just 3-4 at home in league games while posting an impressive 5-1 mark on the road.
Jerome Hill is leading the Runnin’ Bulldogs in scoring at 13.8 points per game in all games as he’s increased his averaging to 15.5 per game in league play. He has gotten to the foul line 179 times this season and shooting 66 percent from the stripe. Hill had nine points on 7-for-8 shooting from the line in the first meeting this season and last year’s meeting at Paul Porter against the Eagles he was 10-for-13 from the line as he recorded a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
Also averaging double-figures for Gardner-Webb are Naji Hibbert at 11.9 points per game and Donta Harper is averaging 10.7. Hibbert led Gardner-Webb with 11 points in the first meeting against Winthrop.
Harper had 15 points in the win over Presbyterian College on Wednesday while Jarvis Davis came off the bench to lead the Runnin’ Bulldogs with 19 points.
This will mark the 20th meeting between Winthrop and Gardner-Webb as the Eagles lead the all-time series 12-7, but have dropped the last two meetings.