Winthrop Clinches Share Of Regular-Season Title; VMI Wins

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WINTHROP 63, CHARLESTON SOUTHERN 49
Winthrop clinched at least a share of the Big South Conference regular-season championship Tuesday night with a 63-49 victory over Charleston Southern.  Michael Jenkins scored 14, Mantoris Robinson had 13 and Andy Buechert added a career-high 12 as the Eagles improved to 19-10 overall and 10-3 in the league. Charleston Southern is now 9-19, 3-10.  The Eagles could claim the regular-season championship and the No. 1 seed in the upcoming conference tournament should UNC Asheville lose to Coastal Carolina on Wednesday or to the host Eagles on Saturday in the regular-season finale. The No. 1 seed is assured of playing all its tournament games at home.

Charleston Southern built a 7-3 lead early in the first half, but the Eagles reeled off 14 unanswered points to take control.  Robinson’s 3-pointer put the Eagles ahead for good at 10-7 with 14:45 left in the first period.  Winthrop would see the Buccaneers, who got a game-high 16 points from Chris Moore, cut a 12-point lead to one late in the first half, but that was as close as they could get.  Charleston Southern would keep things interesting.  The Bucs trailed 41-38 with 12:51 left in the game – but the Eagles would pull away behind Charles Corbin, who finished with eight points.

Winthrop hosts UNC Asheville Saturday, March 1 at 4:30pm live on SportSouth.  Charleston Southern wraps up Conference play at home Saturday vs. Coastal Carolina at 7:30pm.

VMI 81, LIBERTY 79
Senior forward Reggie Williams scored 34 points and grabbed 12 rebounds and junior guard Chavis Holmes added 25 points as VMI rallied for an 81-79 win over Liberty Tuesday night at the Vines Center.  VMI trailed by as many as seven points with over six minutes to go in regulation, but went on a 9-0 run to retake the lead for good.  Williams' 3-point play with 3:01 left put VMI on top for the rest of the night, 74-73.  Freshman forward Quinn Brownfield hit two free throws with 14.4 second left to give VMI and 81-77 lead.  Brownfield finished with a 6-for-6 performance from the line.  Guard TeeJay Bannister's desperation half-court shot to win it for the Flames fell short as time expired.  VMI is now 14-13, 6-7 Big South. Liberty fell to 14-15, 6-7 Big South.

With 14 wins on the season, VMI has compiled back-to-back 14 wins in back-to-back years for the first time since 1976-77 and 1977-78.  VMI’s decisive 9-0 run started with a Chavis Holmes layup with 4:20 left to slice the deficit to 73-69. Williams followed with five straight points on the next two possessions including layup and the key 3-point-play to put VMI up for good.  Chavis capped the string with a layup at the 2:30 mark to put VMI 76-73 with 2:30 to go.  The Keydets were able to protect their lead by hitting three of six free throws over the last :45 of regulation.  Brownfield’s two foul shots with 14.4 seconds left extended VMI’s lead to 81-77.  Liberty’s Anthony Smith answered with a jumper with 4.2 left to slice the lead to 81-79.  The Flames fouled Keydet guard Christian Hunter with 3.8 seconds left, but the freshman was unable to connect on two attempts.  Liberty rebounded but play was halted because the clock did not resume after the free throw attempts.  The Flames inbounded the ball at half-court with 2.0 remaining but could only manage a half-court heave by Bannister that fell short at the buzzer.  Williams hit on 15-of-26 shot attempts from the floor and also dished out three assists in collecting his 31st career double-double and 26th game of 30 or more points.

The Flames challenged the perimeter shot throughout most of the game forcing the Keydets to drive and look inside for point production.  The Keydets were limited to just five 3-pointers, well below their 12 per game average, but outscored Liberty in the paint, 38-36 and worked themselves to the free throw line 25 times, hitting 18 attempts including Chavis Holmes who went 8 for 9 from the stripe.  VMI also outscored Liberty in points-off-turnovers, 21-13. VMI shot 50% from the field, going 29 of 58 from the floor.  Smith paced Liberty with 23 points and 11 rebounds while forward Alex McLean scored 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds despite playing the last nine minutes of regulation with four fouls. LU guards Jeremy Anderson (14 points) and Kyle Ohman (11 points) combined for seven 3-pointers as Liberty went 12 for 34 beyond the arc.

VMI entered the game undermanned as starting junior forward Willie Bell did not play because of an ankle injury sustained in Saturday’s Radford game.  Bell is expected to return for VMI’s final regular season home game against High Point Saturday.  Liberty hosts Radford Saturday night at 7:00pm.