Winthrop Wins Men's Basketball Championship


CONWAY, S.C. - Winthrop used a 13-3 run midway through the second half to turn a five-point deficit into a five-point lead, and the No. 3-seeded Eagles pulled away to defeat No. 1 seed Coastal Carolina, 64-53, to win the 2010 Advance Auto Parts Big South Men's Basketball Championship Saturday at Kimbel Arena.  With the win, Winthrop (19-13) wins its ninth Big South Tournament title in 12 years and captures the Conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.  Coastal Carolina, the Big South regular-season champion, falls to 28-6 and will represent the Big South in the NIT.

Winthrop becomes just the second No. 3 seed to win the Big South Tournament.  Mantoris Robinson led the Eagles with 14 points, including 12 in the second half and eight on free throws.  Matt Morgan added 12 points, while Justin Burton scored 11 off the bench.  Reggie Middleton, who averaged 21.0 points in the first two Tournament games, was hampered by foul trouble and finished with seven points in 14 minutes.  Coastal Carolina was led by Chad Gray's 16 points and seven rebounds.  He was 7-of-12 from the field.  Logan Johnson added 10 points, but was held scoreless in the second half.  Joseph Harris, who entered the contest averaging 14.8 points and 9.9 rebounds, was held to three points and five boards.

Coastal Carolina jumped out to a 7-2 lead in the first three minutes, with Johnson hitting a three to get things started.  The Chanticleers enjoyed a five-point lead through the opening 10 minutes, with Mario Edwards hitting a three-point bucket to make the score 20-15 with 9:19 remaining.  Winthrop would get within two points three times prior to Edwards' triple, and then put together a 7-0 run to take a 22-20 lead with 2:21 left.  Morgan had four of those points while Burton had two free throws.  The lead changed hands the final two minutes, as Johnson hit a jumper to tie it at 22-22, with Burton countering with a jumper for Winthrop's final lead of the half at 24-22.  Coastal's Danny Nieman hit a three and Gray added a tip-in layup just before the buzzer to give the Chanticleers a 26-24 halftime advantage.

Johnson led all scorers at the break with 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting.  Three players had six points for Winthrop in the first 20 minutes, including Burton, who was 4-of-7 from the line and had five rebounds in 15 minutes.  Coastal shot 37.9 percent in the first half on 11-of-29 shooting, but was just 2-of-11 from beyond the arc.  Winthrop was 9-of-25 from the field (36.0 percent) in the first half.  The rebounds were even at 19-19.

Kierre Greenwood opened the second half with a jumper to give Coastal Carolina a four-point lead at 28-24.  The Chanticleers stretched their lead to five points at 34-29 on Gray's layup at the 13:34 mark.  Winthrop began to chip away at the lead, and moved ahead for good on Burton's free throws at 10:27 that made the score 38-37 in favor of the Eagles.  Coastal Carolina got back within two points on a three-pointer by Edwards at 5:49 that cut Winthrop's lead to 44-42, but a 13-2 run by the Eagles put the game out of reach with a commanding 15-point lead with :48 seconds remaining.

Sparking the Eagles during the final seven-minute stretch were Robinson, who made seven free throws, and Andre Jones, who came off the bench to hit two key shots as well as five free throws.  Winthrop finished the game hitting 40.4 percent from the floor, including 45.5 in the second half.  Coastal Carolina was 8-of-23 from the field in the second stanza anf 19-of-52 for the game.  Robinson was voted Tournament MVP and was joined on the All-Tournament by teammates Middleton and Morgan, as well as Coastal Carolina's Gray and Johnson.

Winthrop extends its Big South record with its 10th Tournament title, and will make its Conference-record ninth NCAA Tournament appearance.  The Eagles are the second No. 3 seed to win the Big South Tournament and the first since 1992 when former member Campbell won the crown.  Coastal Carolina will be the second Big South team to advance to the NIT, and it will mark the third consecutive season that the Big South will have two teams playing in the postseason.