Winthrop Men's Basketball Falls Short Against Gardner-Webb

Winthrop Men's College Basketball

Winthrop Men's Basketball Falls Short Against Gardner-Webb

ROCK HILL, S.C. -- Winthrop’s basketball team has started 3-0 in Big South Conference play just four times in school history, the most recent coming in 2006-07.

The Eagles would not make it five.

Gardner-Webb (8-10, 1-2 Big South) emerged victorious in a tough defensive slog, defeating Winthrop (8-7, 2-1 Big South) 56-51 in front of 1,955 fans at Winthrop Coliseum.

The proceedings started rather slowly for both teams, with Gardner-Webb holding a 3-1 lead at the first media timeout and just an 8-7 advantage eight minutes into the game.  Winthrop parlayed two Runnin’ Bulldog fouls and a Keon Johnson jumper into a 6-0 run that tied the game at 15 with 8:13 remaining in the first half.  The sides traded the lead -- and missed jump shots -- for the next three-plus minutes.  Keon Moore’s jumper put Winthrop ahead 21-19 with 4:48 to go, and this turned out to be the final Eagle bucket of the first half.  Gardner-Webb went on a 7-0 run over that final 4:48 to take a 26-21 lead to the halftime break, while outshooting Winthrop by greater than 18 percent in the stanza.

The offensive output picked up ever so slightly as the second half began, with Winthrop going on a 13-3 run to take a 34-29 lead with 14:19 left in the game.  Gardner-Webb began the second half hitting just one of their first ten shots.  The Eagles took advantage of a four-point possession during the run, with Runnin’ Bulldog forward Jerome Hill picking up a personal foul and technical foul on the same play.  Keon Moore drained the technical free throws, with Jarad Scott hitting the foul shots.  Gardner-Webb got back-to-back baskets from forward Tyrell Nelson and a bucket from Donta Harper to regain the lead with 11:29 left to go.  Winthrop guard Andre Smith found the bottom of the basket to put the Eagles back ahead 36-35 with 11:18 remaining, but this was the final lead on the night for the home team.

Winthrop continued to hang around for the remainder of the game, never allowing Gardner-Webb a lead greater than six points.  The Eagles cut the lead to three with 2:56 remaining, but two missed Gardner-Webb jumpers turned into offensive rebounds and a reset of the shot clock.  A Runnin’ Bulldog foul put Winthrop’s James Bourne on the line for a one-and-one opportunity with 53 seconds to go, but Bourne missed the front end.  Tyrell Nelson then banked a jumper high off the backboard with 25 seconds on the clock to extend Gardner-Webb’s lead to five.  A Keon Moore basket brought the lead back to three, but Josh Castellanos hit two free throws with 12 seconds left to provide the final margin.

Eagle coach Pat Kelsey spoke of his team’s shooting struggles, saying, “You could see them gain confidence and us sort of lose a little bit of confidence as our offensive struggles -- offensive woes, if you will, continued as the game went on.  I told our guys I thought our lack of making shots affected our disposition as a team.”

Winthrop shot just 27.8 percent (15-for-54) on the game, hitting the same amount of shots in this contest as they made from behind the arc in Saturday’s victory over Charleston Southern.  “I really feel like -- and I say this without watching the tape -- I thought we manufactured some pretty good looks.  We started the game and we missed a wide-open layup, and a few chippies around the rim, and then a bunch of missed free throws.  You know, sometimes when that happens, you start playing a little tentative and a little tight and you start wondering if this just isn’t our night type thing,” said Kelsey.  The Eagles hit just four of their 20 three-point attempts (20 percent), and converted only 17-of-27 free throws (63 percent).

Gardner-Webb head coach Tim Craft spoke glowingly of his team, saying, “I can’t say enough about our guys.  I thought we did a great job defensively.  Moore was really good, but, for a team that made 15 threes and really shoots the ball well -- that was our emphasis all week was to defend, to guard the arc.  Our goal was to hold them under five three-pointers made, that was our goal, and we were able to do that.  I’m sure they missed some open ones, but I thought our defense was pretty good.”  Craft’s Runnin’ Bulldogs hit 38.5 percent of their shots (20-for-52), despite converting just 3-of-14 three-pointers (21.4 percent).  Gardner-Webb hit 13-of-16 free throws (81.3 percent).

Guard Naji Hibbert led the Runnin’ Bulldogs in scoring with 11 points.  Forward Tyrell Nelson joined Hibbert in double figures, contributing 10 off the bench.  Forwards Donta Harper and Jerome Hill added nine apiece.

Moore led the Eagles with 20 points on 6-of-16 shooting (3-for-8 from long range).  Forward James Bourne was the only other double-digit scorer for Winthrop, adding nine rebounds to his ten points.

Gardner-Webb plays at Presbyterian’s Templeton Center in Big South action at 2:00pm Saturday.  Winthrop next takes the court against Coastal Carolina at the HTC Center in Conway, South Carolina at 7:00pm Saturday.