GAME NOTES: The Winthrop Eagles and Radford Highlanders will tip-off this season's Big South Conference Tournament when the two school square off at the HTC Center on Tuesday in first-round action.
This will be the 63rd meeting in history and ninth time these schools have crossed paths in the conference tournament. Radford holds a narrow, 32-30 all- time series edge although Winthrop is 6-2 versus the Highlanders in conference tournament games. In their only meeting this season, Radford rallied from a 10-point second-half deficit to hand the Eagles a 58-57 loss.
The winner of this game advances to take on the No. 1 seed Charleston Southern in the next round.
Winthrop closed out the regular season on Saturday with 70-61 victory over UNC- Asheville that lifted it to a 13-16 overall record including a 6-10 mark in Big South action. The victory marked the second in three games for the Eagles. Winthrop is a defensive-minded team as it has the lowest scoring offense in the conference at 60.4 ppg to go along with the second-best scoring defense make of only 61.6 allowed points per tilt.
Joab Jerome paced Winthrop its last time out with 15 points and nine boards as the team coasted to the nine-point decision over UNCA. The Eagles shot 50 percent from the field including 5-of-14 from beyond the arc while the Bulldogs made good on just 31.8 percent of their shots from the floor. Andre Smith and Christian Farmer chipped in 14 points each while James Bourne scored 13 in the win. Since Derrick Henry is out with a broken wrist, Jerome (10.1 ppg, 4.7 rpg) is the only active Eagle with a double-digit scoring average.
Radford suffered its fourth loss in five outings on Saturday as its regular season ended with a 73-56 setback to Liberty at home. The season-concluding slump dropped the Highlanders to a 13-18 overall record and one-game below the .500 mark in conference play. Radford was outscored by an average margin of 2.0 ppg during the regular season. It was the only school to shoot below 40 percent from the field (0.398) in the Big South, but it made up for it by swiping a league leading total of 269 steals (8.7 per game).
In the Highlanders' regular season finale against Liberty, Rashun Davis scored 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting to lead the team, which shot a woeful 31.1 percent (19 of 61) from the floor. Javonte Green had 15 points and six rebounds. Radford really struggled from beyond the arc as it went 3-of-18 on 3- point attempts and trailed Liberty (11-20, 6-10) by 17 early in the second half. Green has been the go-to-guy for the Highlanders all season long with averages of 14.6 points and 8.2 boards per outing while R.J. Price contributes 14 ppg on 36.9 percent efficiency from the field.
This one should be a closely contested matchup just as the only regular season encounter was. Although the Highlanders have more options on the offensive end, they will have a great deal of trouble finding any success against Winthrop's stifling defense. The Eagles will be able to advance if one of their players manages to submit a strong showing on the offensive end to help make up for Henry's absence.