You’ve read the recap. Now, let’s take a spin inside the numbers of Winthrop’s big victory over Asheville Saturday afternoon.
- The most important tidbit of the day: It was Military Appreciation Day at Winthrop. The Eagles wore digital camo uniforms, seen here:
Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey also shared some words regarding the day and those it honored. Click the Play button below to listen.
- I’m honestly not sure if there’s been a team to have multiple 50-plus point efforts off the bench in a year — and I didn’t get a chance to touch base with Winthrop sports information director Brett Redden after the game — but the Eagles achieved the feat today for at least the second time this year. They did the same at Hampton earlier in the year. I asked Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey about whether or not he had ever coached a team that had pulled that off, and he said in quite the understatement, “That’s pretty good.” Considering rotations significantly tighten in conference play, the fact that Winthrop still has this kind of depth and firepower is just one of the reasons this team is still undefeated.
- Winthrop forward Josh Ferguson came into the game 11 points shy of 1,000 for his well-decorated career. Asheville limited him to just two points on 1-for-3 from the floor.
- Eagle guard Kyle Zunic had more dimes (nine) than did the entire Asheville team (seven).
- Speaking as an observer, Kelsey just seems…different this year. I’ve covered him since the day he arrived in Rock Hill, and there’s a change in his demeanor this year. I asked him about it after the game.
We were sitting with (former ESPN and current ESPN+ broadcaster) Mike Gleason, and one of the things he said to me was that he noticed the chemistry on this team. With having to put together a lot of new parts, it’s not really easy, but they’ve helped. Is this the most fun you’ve had with a team here?
KELSEY: “I have a blast doing what I do, because they pay me to do this (laughs). When you really love what you do, it’s like you’re not working. There are special things about every team I’ve coached, and there’s dynamics, good and bad, about every team. I am having a lot of fun coaching this team. You know, the old saying, we’ve all heard it, and I really believe in it, but it’s amazing how much you can accomplish when nobody cares who gets the credit. I really think that’s what this team’s about.”
- Winthrop center D.J. Burns has enjoyed a number of big games of late, which most probably expected from the Tennessee transfer. What some may not have expected is how well he’s done on the defensive end, and with some of the “small things”. He and Kelsey both opined on that subject after the game:
BURNS: “Coming in to scout (Asheville), (assistant) Coach (Brian Kloman) was telling me that they had some guards — I was in there probably an hour and 15 minutes watching film with Coach Kloman just trying to figure out how I could not be a liability on defense (against a guard-heavy lineup) … (They were focused on) bringing me out (of the paint) and making me uncomfortable, so I tried to make it to where it wouldn’t be a liability.”
KELSEY: “His passing has always been elite. The lord blessed him with unbelievable — (it’s) in his DNA. That kid can sling it. He’s got great feel, great touch, he’s got great feet, but his defense is something he really has to work at … D.J. was challenged the day after he had a huge game at Charleston Southern and was probably really feeling good about himself. It was like, ‘Hey, just so you know, we’re playing a team that plays five guards, or wants to play five guards. If you can’t guard (forward Coty Jude) — he’s 6’9″, but he’s a two-guard. If you can’t guard him, his ability to space the floor, and put you in pick-and-rolls, you’re not gonna play a lot. Now, if you guard him, guess what he’s gotta do at the other end? He’s gotta guard you, D.J., and that’s gonna be hard for him’ … It’s great that he’s taken that initiative and it means that much to him to get better at the defensive end, because if he becomes a really good defender, it is scary how good he could be. He’s a work in progress, but it matters to him.”
- Freshman guard Russell Jones revealed to us after the game the reason he wears uniform number zero.
“Zero doubt. That’s like Boogie Cousins’ slogan, for when he went through his ACL (injury), zero doubt in himself.”
Jones was explaining the writing on his blaze orange shoes, which my boss/buddy/cohort Alex Zietlow and I almost immediately noticed.
- Speaking of Winthrop’s depth, the Eagles played three point guards at the same time (Jones, Hunter Hale, and Chandler Vaudrin) at times. I asked Jones about the trio, to which he said:
“We all practiced that all year, we’ve played it all year. We’re used to that. It brings a different element to the game. We don’t dominate the ball. We’re all point guards, we all can make plays, and we all can score the ball. It just makes it easier on us. If one person’s got it going, we go to him. If another’s got it going, we go to him. Just sharing the ball, it’s fun. Three point guards, they’re gonna make the right play. We’re an unselfish team, and that’s the biggest part.”
Russ also had a fun story about when he and Chase Claxton played AAU ball together; for more on that, check out Alex’s dispatch from the game.
- Finally, the Hustle Stats:
- Points in the paint: Winthrop 38, Asheville 34
- Points off turnovers: Winthrop 27, Asheville 14
- This is quite significant, because Winthrop only forced three more turnovers than did Asheville (15-12), but tallied 13 more points than did the Bulldogs off forced miscues.
- Second-chance points: Winthrop 18, Asheville 9
- Winthrop snared 15 offensive rebounds, versus Asheville’s 11.
- Fast-break points: Winthrop 10, Asheville 9
- Bench points: Winthrop 51, Asheville 7
- This advantage was 35-1 at one point. Claxton and Jamal King combined for 30 of the Eagles’ 51 off the pine. Jeremy Peck had 4 for Asheville, with a point each for AJ McBride, Trent Stephney, and Jamon Battle.
WINTHROP 104, UNC ASHEVILLE 71
UNC ASHEVILLE (9-12, 3-7 BIG SOUTH): Jude 2-7 0-0 6, Batts 7-14 4-5 19, Thorpe 4-9 11-14 21, Jones 0-3 0-1 0, Baker 8-15 2-3 18, Stephney 0-1 1-4 1, Battle 0-0 1-3, Lawson 0-0 0-0 0, Levitch 0-0 0-0 0, McBride 0-1 1-2 1, Peck 2-4 0-0 4. Totals 23-54 20-32 71.
WINTHROP (16-7, 10-0): Ferguson 1-3 0-0 2, Burns 7-9 3-5 17, Anumba 3-4 2-3 9, Hale 4-10 4-6 16, Vaudrin 3-5 1-4 9, Jones 2-6 4-4 9, Pupavac 0-3 0-0 0, Falden 3-3 0-0 9, King 4-5 2-2 11, Zunic 1-3 0-0 3, Claxton 7-8 5-10 19, Hunter 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 35-59 21-34 104.
Halftime — Winthrop 52-36. 3-Point Goals—Winthrop 13-23 (Ferguson 0-2, Anumba 1-2, Hale 4-6, Vaudrin 2-3, Jones 1-3, Pupavac 0-1, Falden 3-3, King 1-1, Zunic 1-2), Asheville 5-16 (Jude 2-7, Batts 1-3, Thorpe 2-3, Baker 0-2, Stephney 0-1). Fouled Out — Jones (AVL). Rebounds — Winthrop 43 (Anumba 9), Asheville 27 (Jones 6). Assists —Winthrop 24 (Zunic 9), Asheville 7 (Batts 3). Total Fouls — Asheville 25, Winthrop 24. Technical — NA. A —2834.
CURRENT BIG SOUTH STANDINGS