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Winthrop holds off Hampton

The SportsXchange

ROCK HILL, S.C. -- In a game featuring two teams with struggling offenses, Winthrop held off visiting Hampton.

Neither team shot particularly well with Winthrop coming away with a 50-43 victory Sunday afternoon.

Winthrop and Hampton combined to shoot 33-of-116 (28 percent), but it was the Eagles who mustered the big buckets down the stretch to improve to 6-5 on the year.

Emmanuel Okoroba's deuce inside gave the Pirates (2-9) their only lead of the game at 43-42 with 4 minutes left.

But Winthrop's Derrick Henry immediately responded with a 3-pointer, and the Eagles outscored Hampton 8-0 in the remaining time to hand Hampton its seventh loss this season by 10 or fewer points.

"We all get tired of learning tough lessons," said Hampton coach Ed Joyner Jr., whose team has nine newcomers this year. "I know I'm tired of them. ... I like where we're going, but I'm sick of the way we're having to get there."

Winthrop's Gideon Gamble led all scorers with 13 points to go with 10 rebounds, while Ramon Mercado was Hampton's lone double-digit scorer with 10.

Crucially in a game with 83 missed shots, Winthrop outrebounded the Pirates 52-38, including 16 offensive boards that breathed life into otherwise dead possessions.

"It was a team effort," said Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey, whose club has won four of its last five. "That's something we focused on in preparation and I think those guys executed blocking those guys out."

The loss dropped Hampton to 2-9 on the season in the Pirates' last game of the calendar year. They remain in South Carolina to face South Carolina-Upstate on Wednesday, giving Joyner perhaps one more game in front of family and friends. Hampton's coach is a native of nearby Charlotte.

The Joyner family will hope to witness a more attractive game on Wednesday. Both teams struggled mightily to score in the first half. Hampton only mustered one two-point field goal the first 20 minutes, relying instead on 5-of-14 3-point shooting to stay competitive. They fell behind early when Gamble knocked in a pair of quick threes to put Winthrop up 8-1 at the first media timeout.

Mercado stepped into a 26-foot 3-pointer to make it 14-10, but the Eagles scored nine of the next 10 points to build a 23-11 lead with just over 5 minutes left in the first half.

Typical of the offensive struggles, the hosts didn't score another field goal until the second half. A slashing layup by Reggie Price punctuated a quick 7-0 Hampton spurt and Mercado's third triple of the first half cut the Eagles' lead to 23-21.

Hampton went scoreless for 3 early minutes of the second half as Winthrop built a nine-point lead (37-28). Gamble dropped in a baseline floater and then buried a corner three after Larry Brown slapped a loose ball his way.

"That's been typical of us all year," said Joyner. "We've had stretches where we struggled to score."

Hampton got back in the game, though, thanks to another barren Winthrop offensive span. Brown was ejected for a flagrant elbow with over 9 minutes left and fellow big man Steve Johnson went down with his fourth foul seconds later, and the Pirates took advantage.

Okoroba knocked in a pair of freebies and Du'Vaughn Maxwell flew in for a fine reverse layup. The score was then tied 38-38 when Jasper Williams bombed in a deep 3-pointer with 7:30 left.

That was as close as Hampton got, though, as 3-pointers by Henry and Andre Smith in the last 2 minutes buried the Pirates.

"One thing I do know about this team, I'm never worried about them fighting back," said Joyner. "It's just, when times get tough, you gotta make a play."

Notes: Winthrop point guard Andre Smith didn't start after missing three straight practices this week because of the flu. He did manage to play 27 minutes and knocked down a decisive three-pointer late in the contest. ... The Eagles have won four out of five games for the first time since last December. This year's wins came against Brevard, Ohio, Auburn and Hampton, compared to last year's wins over Central Penn College, Presbyterian, Virginia-Wise and Jacksonville. ... Sunday's was the fourth game out of five that Hampton has been outrebounded by the opposing team. ... Hampton's leading scorer, freshman Deron Powers (12.7 ppg), was held scoreless. ... Hampton faces USC-Upstate, James Madison and Quinnipiac before entering the teeth of the MEAC schedule.
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