AP NEWS

Winthrop beats Charleston Southern in Big South opener

December 30, 2016 GMT

Charleston Southern tipped off its Big South Conference men’s basketball season on Thursday night, dropping an 84-68 contest to league favorite Winthrop at the CSU fieldhouse.

Winthrop senior guard Keon Johnson poured in 27 points and dished out seven assists while senior forward Xavier Cooks added 13 points and 11 rebounds to pace the Eagles, who improved to 9-3 overall on the season. Johnson was voted the Big South’s preseason player of the year in October.

Winthrop connected on 10 3-pointers, five by Bjorn Broman, and shot 49.2 percent from the field for the game. Broman finished with 15 points.

“Congratulations to Winthrop, I thought they played extremely well,” CSU coach Barclay Radebaugh said. “Keon is a handful, without a doubt a handful. He’s very difficult to guard in transition and you almost have to be perfect every time. He puts a lot of pressure on you.

“I love the way we competed. We weren’t afraid. We competed and came at them. We just weren’t good enough to get it done against a really good team. A few breakdowns allowed it to get away from us. But we’re learning and growing as a team.”

Sophomore guard Armel Potter finished with 15 points for Charleston Southern, which shot only 35 percent from the field and made four of 21 shots from beyond the arc. Freshman guard Christian Keeling added 13 points and junior guard Cortez Mitchell chipped in with 11 points.

Junior forward Javis Howard grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds for Charleston Southern.

Winthrop jumped to a quick 6-0 lead before the Buccaneers mounted a 21-5 run to lead 21-11 with just over 10 minutes remaining in the first half.

The Eagles, however, owned the final 10 minutes of the half, claiming a 41-37 halftime advantage. Winthrop opened the second half with a 15-5 run in the first four minutes and never trailed again. The Eagles led 61-47 midway through the half before CSU cut the margin to 64-57 with eight minutes left.

“Winthrop is a veteran team, the most veteran team in the league and they played like that in the second half,” Radebaugh said. “They were terrific in every aspect of the game. You could see their experience on the floor, the way they were able to make adjustments. Those guys have been together for three years and we’ve been together for six months.”

Winthrop again responded, using a 16-6 run over the next five minutes to lead, 80-63, with 3:40 left in the game.

Charleston Southern will host Liberty on Saturday afternoon with tip-off at 2 p.m. Liberty opened the Big South season with a win over Presbyterian on Thursday night.

“We have 36 hours and we get to play again,” Radebaugh said. “We need to play again. We’re excited to play again. We play the number one preseason pick and the number two preseason pick back-to-back in our gym. That’s going to help us get better. We are going to continue to get better and as we get better, we’re going to play with more confidence.”