A rough night in Rock Hill, as Lancers fall to Winthrop 76-74

Published 12:15 am Thursday, February 2, 2023

ROCK HILL, S.C. Winthrop seemingly couldn’t miss after halftime, and the Eagles narrowly edged the Longwood Lancers 76-74 on Wednesday night in a hotly contested game.

Kasen Harrison weaved and bobbed to the hoop with the clock winding down, and the junior transfer from Lamar scooped home a layup that was the difference. He finished with 15 points and was one of four players for Winthrop (11-13, 6-5 Big South) that scored in double figures.

DA Houston kept Longwood (15-9, 7-4 Big South) in the game late after Winthrop erased a 17-point halftime lead. The junior from Houston hit three triples in the second half, including a game-tying try that evened the score at 74 with 20 seconds to play. He had a team-best 14 points with a career best four threes.

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“DA is a consistent player,” said Longwood Head Coach Griff Aldrich. “He’s had to do a lot for us this year with an injured wrist. I’m proud of him. He hit a bunch of really big shots tonight to keep us in it.”

Five players finished with 10 or more points for Longwood, with Walyn Napper and Leslie Nkereuwem each adding 13 points. Michael Christmas chipped in 11, and Isaiah Wilkins finished with 10.

A tale of two halves

Ultimately, it was a tale of two halves, much like the game in Willett Hall earlier this season. In that contest, Winthrop jumped out to a first half lead before the Lancers roared back after halftime to win by 14.

This time, Longwood was the side that played some of its best basketball in the opening 20 minutes, and Winthrop shot the lights out after halftime. The Eagles went 8-11 from three in the second half and 16-23 from the floor.

“A little bit of the same that we’ve struggled with,” said Aldrich, when asked about what turned the game. “We’re a team that struggles to execute consistently. Probably one of the best halves of basketball, and then we took our foot off the gas. Credit to Winthrop for coming out and competing, but the same thing happened to us at Radford. You don’t come out with the same level of intensity and urgency to compete, and you give up some shots, you give them some life and then you’ve got a game.”

In the first half, Longwood’s defense helped propel the team out to a 22-12 lead in the first nine minutes. Eight different Lancers scored in that time frame as the offense clicked.

After Winthrop trimmed the lead down to seven, the Lancers held Winthrop scoreless for five minutes. Christmas and Nkereuwem powered the offense and combined for eight points in an 11-0 run. The duo totaled 19 points between them in the first half.

Christmas capped the half with a three, and Longwood took a 45-28 lead into the break. He had a team-best 11 in the opening half.

“We were moving the ball,” Aldrich said. “We were sharing the ball well. The ball was really flowing. Obviously, we made some open shots and things like that, which was great. The other thing is that we got stops, so we were in transition. But when you don’t get stops, you don’t get out on the floor the other way.”

Lancers lead falls apart

Sin’Cere McMahon and Toneari Lane ignited Winthrop in the second half. The duo combined to hit six threes in the second half, including three in the first four minutes to trim Longwood’s lead to 49-41.

“Winthrop shot the ball well in the second half, credit to them,” Aldrich added. “But we didn’t make it uncomfortable on the defensive end. It was very fluid. We didn’t compete the way we needed to compete. ”

From that point on, the Eagles seemingly couldn’t miss, with Lane and McMahon bombing in threes while Kelton Talford worked on the interior. Lane had 14 of his 17 after halftime, and McMahon scored 11 of his game-high 20 in the second half. Talford added 10 of his 16 in the final 20 minutes.

After the Eagles finally tied the score, the two sides went shot for shot and stop for stop in a tense final few minutes. With less than a minute to play, Lane gave Winthrop a 74-71 lead with a three. Houston answered with a triple on Longwood’s next possession, but Harrison had the final word with his lay up with 1.3 seconds left.

“This team has to learn to execute,” Aldrich said. “We have to learn to make new mistakes. If we don’t, if we keep playing out of instinct, we are going to keep getting these results. I think we have a bunch of guys who are urgent and trying to do that, but some guys are still trying to learn that lesson.”

What’s up next?

Longwood heads back home to Willett Hall for a matchup with Campbell on Saturday, Feb. 4. Tip is set for 2 p.m., and the game will be aired on ESPN+ and on WVHL 92.9 Kickin’ Country. It is “Back in Black” night in Willett, and fans are encouraged to wear black.