ROCK HILL, SC—Winthrop is riding a four-game winning streak as it heads to North Charleston, SC for a road contest at Charleston Southern, Saturday evening at the Buc Dome.
The Eagles have won three straight in the Big South, including two in a row on the road as they are currently 14-10 overall and 7-4 in the league. The Buccaneers enter the game looking to end a two-game skid and are 10-13 overall and 4-6 in the league.
If Winthrop is going to extend its winning streak, it will have to do so in a place it hasn’t won at since Jan. 20, 2009. Winthrop has lost four straight at the Buc Dome. The Eagles have lost those games by an average of 8.75 points with double-figure losses in the last two trips.
While the road hasn’t been too kind to the Eagles as a whole the last two seasons, the Eagles have started to find their rhythm away from home, having won four of their last six. Last season the Eagles were 0-8 on the road in the Big South and so far this season they are 4-2. In fact, the Eagles have won their last two road games by 11 points or more. An impressive number in the last three road contests is that Winthrop has trailed by only a total of four minutes and 47 seconds.
This year the Eagles are averaging 69.9 points per game on the road (13.4 more than last year), but it’s been the defense that has been impressive. The Eagles have the best scoring defense in league games only (11 games) as they are holding opponents to 65.9 points. That’s 3.0 better than any other team in the league. They also rank third in field goal percentage defense and second in defending the three in league play.
Since allowing 76 points at home in a loss to Radford, the Eagles have not allowed more than 65 points, holding the last four opponents to 62 or less.
Over the last five games the only loss for the Eagles is a last second loss at High Point, a game in which it didn’t trail in for 39 minutes and 50 seconds. The Eagles have outscored their opponents 78.6 to 62.0 during that stretch and are being led offensively by their senior forward, Joab Jerome.
Jerome is averaging 14.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.8 steals while shooting 50 percent from the field, 50 percent from three and 76 percent at the foul line (25-for-33) in that stretch. Freshman Keon Johnson has also been very steady offensively in the last five games, averaging 12.6 points and shooting 49 percent. Johnson has knocked down 53 percent behind the arc and 93 percent at the foul line.
There are a number of other players that have picked up their game recently but junior Brandon Vega stands out. The point guard has come off the bench the last five games to average 6.4 points, 2.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists while shooting 71 percent shooting from the floor and 88 percent at the foul line. He scored six points during a 7-0 run at Longwood that pushed the Eagles lead from six points to 13 points with 11:43 left in the first half.
In the first meeting with the Buccaneers this season, Winthrop hit connected on 15 threes en route to an 85-68 victory at the Winthrop Coliseum. Keon Moore, Andre Smith and Christian Farmer each hit 5 in the game. Winthrop shot 52 percent from the field, 54 percent from three and had five players in double-figures.
This will be the 62nd meeting all-time between Winthrop and Charleston Southern. The Eagles have won two of the last three meetings and lead the series 37-24. This matchup will feature two of the top three-point shooting teams in the league as the Bucs lead the league with 10.3 threes per game and entered the week ranked 3rd nationally. Winthrop is averaging just over eight threes per game, which is fourth in the league while the Eagles are second in three-point field goal percentage (.386) while the Bucs are first at .390.
Charleston Southern has dealt with key injuries over the last week or so but are back full strength as junior Saah Nimley and Arlon Harper are both expected to be in the starting lineup. Nimley lead’s an offense that is ranked among the Top 10 nationally as he leads the team with 13.9 points per game and 5.1 assists.
The Bucs have lost two straight and four of the last five during the stretch with injuries as they made their way through the North Division but at full strength now they look to work their way back toward the top of the South Division. Over the last two games the Bucs have combined for just 11 threes while they had 26 in the previous three.
Despite being one of the top scoring teams in the league at 76.9 points per game in league play, Charleston Southern is allowing 75.0 (10th in defensive field goal percentage and three-point field goal percentage defense).
Matt Kennedy is second on the team in scoring at 11.9 while Arlon Harper averages 11.6, Will Saunders is scoring 10.6 per game and Sheldon Strickland is at 10.3.
Strickland led the Bucs in scoring the first meeting against Winthrop this season as he Nimley added 13 and Harper finished with 11 as the Bucs shot 41 percent from the field and just 33 percent from three (9-for-27).
Charleston Southern is 3-3 at home in the league this season but has not lost back-to-back home games against league opponents. The Bucs dropped their last home game on Feb. 5 against Radford, 82-76. Nimley did not play and the Bucs were just 4-for-11 from three.