Longwood Lancers dominate second half, take down Winthrop

Published 12:11 am Sunday, January 8, 2023

FARMVILLE – The first 20 minutes might have been all Winthrop, but the final 20 were all Longwood on Saturday afternoon.

The Lancers took down Winthrop 85-71 in front of an energetic and loud crowd in Willett Hall in a rematch of the Big South Championship game last season.

The Lancers (12-5, 4-0 Big South) won their seventh straight with a monstrous second half that saw the offense pop off while the defense was lights out.

The reigning Big South champions held Winthrop to 26 second-half points, the 10th time this season that Longwood has held a foe to less than 30 points in a half. The Lancers forced Winthrop into 13 turnovers after halftime as well and improved to 7-1 at home this year.

“They’re a tough team. They’re a team that believes,” Aldrich said about his team after the slow start. “It’s a benefit of having older players who are experienced and have been in situations like this before. It’s a sign of a mature team that can stay the course. I thought they did that.”

Longwood, by the numbers

DA Houston and Walyn Napper keyed the offense, with both players scoring 10 points in the final 20 minutes. They led an assault on the paint, with Longwood scoring 30 points in the paint after halftime and 50 points in the paint in the game.

“DA plays with an incredible level of energy and purpose and enthusiasm,” Aldrich said. “As a result of that, good things happen a lot because he is constantly playing and competing at a high level. It’s one of the reasons he is injured all the time too. But when guys are playing at that level, the game favors toughness. The game favors effort and energy, and he gives that non-stop. Whether it’s a layup, whether it’s a rebound, good things happen. He’s basically outcompeting everybody on the court.”

Five players tallied double figures for the Lancers, with Houston’s team-best 16 leading the way. Napper added 15 points and a season-best seven assists. The pairing combined to shoot 10-13 after halftime with their repeated forays into the paint. The Lancers followed Houston and Napper’s lead and shot .700 (21-30) in the final 20 minutes.

Isaiah Wilkins chipped in 14 points and six rebounds, and DeShaun Wade added 13 points while Michael Christmas powered in 10 points.

Lancer defense snuffs out Winthrop

Winthrop (7-10, 2-2 Big South) started hot and owned the first half after Cory Hightower poured in five first-half threes. He had a game-high 19, but the Lancer defense snuffed him out after halftime and didn’t allow him to score. Kasen Harrison added 15 points and six assists for the Eagles, and Toneari Lane had 13 points while Kelton Talford had 10.

After Winthrop had a nine-point lead at the break, the Eagles extended it to 52-40 with 16:25 to play. Then Houston lifted Longwood’s level. He stole a crosscourt pass and took it home for a layup, and the Lancers had new life.

Longwood didn’t miss for the next five minutes. The Lancers went 7-7 from the floor, and Houston poured in eight points during a 17-3 run that erased the deficit and put Longwood up. The Lancer defense did its part as well by forcing four Winthrop turnovers.

“Winthrop was locking out on shooters, and we adjusted,” Aldrich said. “Offensively, we were standing too much in the first half. Too much one-on-one. Almost every person who caught it was looking to put the ball on the ground. I thought we had to move the ball. When we move the ball and get into things later in the possession, the defense is typically more loosened up. It’s harder for them to stay solid. That was certainly what happened in the second half.”

Winthrop only hit one shot in that stretch. After Wilkins cut the lead to 55-54 with a layup, and Napper intercepted a pass for WU’s Talford before finding DeShaun Wade for a wide-open three that brought the crowd to its feet. Longwood led 57-55 with 10:53 to play.

From that point on, Longwood never trailed to remain the only unbeaten team in Big South play.

Down the stretch, every time Winthrop closed the gap, Napper had the answer. He scored or assisted on 17 of Longwood’s next 20 points to help the Lancers keep Winthrop at arm’s length.

Wilkins hit a fadeaway jumper to give Longwood its first double-digit lead of the contest with 2:29 to go and effectively ice the game.

“If you’re looking at standings, this is an important win to protect your home court and win these games,” Aldrich said. “I think the bigger thing is that we’ve got to continue to get better and better and better. My hope is that our guys are seeing who they can be. We’ve got to be an elite team defensively if we want to reach our potential.”

Longwood heads back on the road to take on UNC Asheville on Thursday night at 7 p.m. The game will be aired on ESPNU as the first Big South Wildcard this spring. The game will be on the radio on WVHL 92.9 Kickin’ Country.