Winthrop’s backcourt duo of Keon Johnson and Andre Smith combined for 23 points and 10 assists and teamed up for 12 of those points during that second-half run. Their production keyed the spurt in which the Eagles shot 8-of-9 from the field while holding Longwood (8-21, 4-12 Big South) to just one field goal.
The resulting 22-2 run ballooned Winthrop’s lead from 35-33 to 57-35 and set the tone for a second half in which Winthrop (16-11, 11-5 Big South) outscored Longwood 51-31. After Longwood managed to trim Winthrop’s lead to two points in the opening minutes of the second half, the Eagles responded by scoring 18 unanswered points and hitting seven consecutive field goals with three three-pointers.
“We had a great crowd here tonight to support the Lancers, but our second half is inexcusable,” Longwood head coach Jayson Gee said. “I thought we sent Winthrop a message that we were ready to play, and then they went into halftime and said ‘Hey, these guys are gonna beat you if you don’t get with it.’ They took the game to another level, and we didn’t.”
Key to Winthrop’s second-half surge was ball security, as the Eagles surrendered just four turnovers after the break. That performance, which included just two turnovers from Johnson and Smith, came against a Longwood team that entered the game ranked among the top 15 nationally in both forced turnovers and steals.
“We just didn’t have that momentum,” Gee said. “We allowed our inability to score offensively to impact us defensively. Their point guard did a great job, Andre Smith. He had seven assists and just one turnover, and I thought he dictated the game.”
Smith scored just seven points of his own, but his seven assists led directly to 15 points.
Longwood held Smith scoreless in the first half, and on the other side of the ball Longwood point guard Quincy Taylor put the Lancers on his shoulders by scoring 12 points in the opening half. Behind Taylor, Longwood took a 32-28 deficit into halftime and came out of the break cutting the deficit to one when a Taylor pass set up freshman Ryan Badowski for a three-pointer from the corner.
That would be Longwood’s last crack at taking a lead, however, as four straight points from Tevin Prescott jump-started Winthrop’s 22-2 run.
“Winthrop didn’t just do this by chance,” Gee said. “They came out ready to fight and compete. Pat had his team ready to go in the second half, and I didn’t. I wish I had an answer. It’s something we have to figure out quickly because we play again Monday.”
Longwood hosts reigning Big South Champion Coastal Carolina Monday in Willett Hall on just two days of rest. The Lancers fell, 76-70, to the Chanticleers on Jan. 8 in Conway, S.C.
“It doesn’t get any easier, and we don’t deserve it to be easy,” Gee said. “If you’re gonna get over a big hump, you have to fight the toughest guys. That second half is not an indication of who we are. To allow our lack of offensive output to affect our defense and mentality, that’s not who we are.”
The home game Monday will be the first of Longwood’s final two regular season games. The Lancers will cap the 2014-15 season at home against Campbell on Jan. 28 before embarking on their third Big South Tournament beginning March 4 in Conway, S.C.