Winthrop Men's Basketball Tops James Madison

Winthrop Men's College Basketball

Winthrop Men's Basketball Tops James Madison


ROCK HILL, S.C. -- Winthrop didn’t quite get off to the start it wanted, as visiting James Madison started their game Wednesday on an 8-2 run before the first media timeout.  All’s well that ends well, however.

The Eagles (5-1) defeated the Dukes (2-5) 69-57 on the strength of 13 points from Andre Smith.  The junior guard drilled two three pointers after that media timeout, the second of which eradicated the JMU run and put Winthrop ahead 9-8 at 14:53 of the first half.

Winthrop attempted to stretch JMU’s zone defense throughout the first half, taking 11 of their 28 shots from distance.  The Eagles hit just four of those shots, though.  “My biggest concern going into this game was getting looks,” said Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey.  “They really bother you with their length in their zone.  Their 3-2 look is different than most of the 2-3 looks we’ve seen this year, and they have 6’7”, 6’8”, 6’8” across the top of their 3-2 zone.”

Kelsey’s team continued to let their somewhat smaller guards push the tempo, making 14 of those 28 attempts (50 percent) in the half.  The attacking style Kelsey preaches, however, did not fully make itself apparent in the first half, as the Eagles got to the line just seven times in the first half, hitting only three.  Winthrop held JMU to just 8-of-24 shooting in the first half (2-for-9 from three), though, taking a 35-26 lead to the intermission.

Any concerns the Eagles had with getting to the line in the first half were quickly removed after coming out of the locker room.  Tevin Prescott and Keon Johnson scored the first four Winthrop points of the half from the line, and a Johnson three-pointer with 17:26 remaining gave his team their largest lead of the night at 42-28.  The Dukes came roaring back in a hurry, going on an 18-8 run to cut the Winthrop lead to four at 50-46 with 9:32 left to play.  “They’re a good team and they’re very well-coached, coming off an NCAA tournament appearance, and you knew they weren’t gonna go away,” said Kelsey of JMU.  “A good team is always gonna make a push, make a run.”

The resilience Winthrop has shown in winning five of their first six to get to their best start in 33 years again made itself apparent.  Two Larry Brown baskets pushed the lead back to double digits.  JMU freshman guard Jackson Kent cut the lead to six with just over four minutes remaining, but a Joab Jerome three-pointer on the other end of the floor gave the Eagles a nine-point lead with 3:18 remaining, and essentially iced the game.

Winthrop shot 39 percent from the floor (23-for-59) for the game, hitting just 6-of-19 three-pointers (31.6 percent).  JMU hit 18-of-54 shots (33.3 percent) in the contest.  The Dukes hit 4-of-20 shots (20 percent) from behind the arc.  Winthrop shook off their early struggles from the line to shoot 70 percent (14-of-20) in the second half and 63 percent (17-of-27) for the game. 

Kelsey may have been the most proud of his team’s effort on the boards against a considerably larger team.  “That’s gonna be something that’s gonna be a challenge all year.  We’re not the biggest, we’re not the longest team in the world, but you have to be the most violent block-out team in the United States.  If you let your foot off the pedal for one second, a good team with a lot of length and athleticism will exploit you.”  Winthrop outrebounded JMU 41-40, holding a 15-14 edge on the offensive boards.  “To our kids’ credit, you look at the other side, we had 15 offensive rebounds.  I always think offensive rebounding is a hustle statistic, it’s an effort statistic,” said Kelsey.

JMU freshman guard Jackson Kent led all scorers with 16 points on 5-of-10 shooting.  Fellow Dukes Ron Curry (15) and Charles Cooke (12) joined Kent in double digits.  Smith’s 13 points led Winthrop, with forwards Joab Jerome (11) and walk-on Tevin Prescott (10) also reaching double figures.

Winthrop will enjoy some time off for the holiday before returning to the floor Tuesday, December 3rd at Virginia Tech.  The game from Cassell Coliseum is scheduled for a 7:00pm (Eastern) tip-off.  JMU will continue their month-plus road swing with a game at Richmond on Saturday, November 30th.