ROCK HILL, SC—With the end of the regular season around the corner, Winthrop men’s basketball will play three of its final four games at home beginning with South Division leader Coastal Carolina Wednesday night at 7 p.m.
The Eagles are 14-11 overall and 7-5 in the Big South as they seek to earn a bye in the opening round of the VisitMyrtleBeach.Com Big South Championship. The Eagles are tied for second in the South Division with UNC Asheville and Gardner-Webb as all three are two games behind Coastal Carolina. The top two teams in each division get a bye in the first round of the tournament. A win against the Chanticleers would give the Eagles a regular season series sweep and a tie-breaker advantage should they end up tied in the standings with Asheville and Gardner-Webb.
Over the next week the Eagles will also match-up against Gardner-Webb and Asheville so they control their own destiny with 3-of-4 remaining games being played at the Winthrop Coliseum.
There is a lot of basketball to be played and the Eagles are hoping to bounce back after suffering a 20-point loss at Charleston Southern last Saturday. The loss ended a four-game winning streak, which was the longest by a Winthrop team since 2009-10.
The game is big for the Chanticleers as a victory over the Eagles would give them a three-game cushion over Winthrop and possibly a three-game cushion in the division depending on the results from the other division matchups on Wednesday. Plus Coastal will be looking to avenge its one-point loss in overtime to the Eagles at home on Jan. 18.
In the first meeting, Winthrop senior Joab Jerome returned from an injury after missing the previous two games and while he didn’t make that much of a scoring impact (six points), he came up with two big plays at the end of the game. The Eagles trailed by one point as Jerome came up with a steal on the defensive end of the court and then on the offensive end as the Eagles looked to take the lead, Jerome drove the lane with nine seconds on the clock and four seconds on the shot clock. As Jerome approached the middle of the lane, the defense collapsed on him and he kicked a bounce pass out to James Bourne, who knocked down a game-winning 15-foot jumper on the base line with 4.5 seconds left. With 2:04 left in overtime, Jerome had knocked down a three for a 71-69 lead.
It was the Keon Moore/Keon Johnson show offensively in the first meeting as the two combined for 45 points on 15-for-28 shooting and 8-for-17 behind the arc. Moore scored a career-high 26 points and tied his career-high of five threes in a game, the second time he hit that number in a league game. Johnson finished with 19 points as he was 3-for-8 downtown and hit a go-ahead three with 1:09 to play in regulation.
Moore still leads the team in scoring as he is one of three players averaging 12 points per game (12.3). Jerome and Johnson are both second on the team at 12.1 per game.
The Eagles hit 10 threes in their loss to Charleston Southern, which was the ninth time this season they had 10 or more threes in a game. Winthrop is ranked 30th nationally in three-point field goals made (8.2) and three-point field goal percentage (39 percent). In the first meeting with Coastal, the Eagles were 12-for-27 behind the arc.
It’s not likely to be an offensive display Wednesday night as Winthrop ranks first in scoring defense in league games only and Coastal Carolina is second. Despite allowing 84 points in their last game, the Eagles are first with a 67.4 average while the Chanticleers are allowing 68.2.
Coastal Carolina enters the game at 16-10 overall and 9-3 in the league as it has won three straight and is 7-1 since its overtime loss at home to the Eagles.
During league play the Chanticleers have a +3.2 rebounding margin and on the season are 44th in the country in rebounding margin (+4.7). In the first meeting, Coastal won the battle on the board 39-33 and had 13 offensive rebounds but the Eagles only allowed three second-chance points.
All season long the Chanticleers have shown they can win in the low scoring, knockdown, drag out games as well as the high scoring ones. They are 5-2 on the year (4-0 in the league) when scoring 60-69 points and 6-0 (4-0 in the league) when scoring 80-89 points.
Freshman Elijah Wilson leads the Chanticleers offensively with 16.2 points per game as he has the ability to score anywhere on the court. He is second on the team in three-pointers made (44) and is shooting 46 percent from the field (52 percent not counting threes). In league play he’s increased his average to 16.9 points and has scored double-figures in 11 straight games. He’s been very good on the road in league games as he’s hit the 20-point mark in half of the games as Coastal is 5-1 on the road in the Big South. He has 20-plus points in two of his last three league games on the road.
Junior guard Josh Cameron is second on the team in scoring at 14.3 points while junior Warren Gillis is third with a 13.6 average. Gillis had 19 points against Winthrop in the first meeting while Cameron and Wilson each added 17.
This will be the 77th meeting between Winthrop and Coastal as the Chanticleers hold a slight advantage in the all-time series, 39-37. Winthrop has won two straight against Coastal at the Winthrop Coliseum and three of the last four meetings overall.