ROCK HILL, SC— Winthrop men’s basketball captured its third straight win as it defeated first-place Liberty 84-67, Saturday afternoon at the Winthrop Coliseum.
Winthrop improves to 21-6 overall and 13-3 in the Big South. Liberty entered the game tied for first with UNC Asheville and falls to 18-11 overall and 13-3 in the league. The Eagles enter the final week of the regular season and will host Charleston Southern on Thursday, Feb. 21 at 7 p.m. Prior to the game Winthrop’s five seniors will be honored.
Keon Johnson scored a game-high 24 points and Xavier Cooks added 14 points and 13 rebounds for his ninth double-double of the season. Both also led the team with four assists. Anders Broman came off the bench to score 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting. The Eagles finished the game shooting 50 percent from the floor.
Liberty was within 10 points at the 18:00 mark of the second half after a Ryan Kemrite three. Following a missed three from Cooks, Liberty had a chance to pull within single-figures but Roderick Perkins came up with a steal and pushed the ball up to Bjorn Broman, who proceeded to knock down a three. The Eagles held an 11-14 point lead consistently the next four minutes. Winthrop pushed its lead to 16 points after two Anders Broman free throws and maintained a comfortable lead the remainder of the game. Winthrop did lead by as much as 21 points with 2:44 to play after a three-point play by Cooks.
Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz led the Flames with 15 points and six rebounds while Kemrite added 14 points and Lovell Cabbil finished with 10 points.
Winthrop held the Flames to 40 percent shooting in the game and held them to just six offensive rebounds.
Winthrop raced out to a 14-2 lead behind two three-pointers from Perkins and a couple of buckets from Johnson. Winthrop pushed the lead to as much as 18 points with 9:06 left in the half at 26-8. That was courtesy of a 9-2 run as Bjorn Broman drilled a three and Duby Okeke scored four straight points. Cooks capped off the run with a floater in transition.
Brock Gardner stopped the run with a three-point play as he converted the free throw and that was followed by a Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz three to make it a 12-point game. Johnson answered with a three but two minutes later the Flames cut the Winthrop lead down to 11 with 5:48 left at 31-20.
Eagles pushed the lead back to 17 points with a little over three left before Liberty went on an 8-0 run to cut the deficit to single-digits at 38-29 thanks to threes from A.C. Reid and Kemrite. Joshua Davenport answered with a three-point play and the Eagles held on to a double-figure lead at the break, 43-32.
UNC Asheville, who won at Campbell on Saturday, sits all alone in first place while the Eagles and Flames are tied for second (one game behind UNCA) as the teams head into the final week of the regular season.