MILWAUKEE, WI—A 14-2 run midway through the second half by Butler stopped Winthrop’s attempt at erasing its double-figure deficit at the half as 13th-seeded Winthrop fell 76-64 to 4th-seeded Butler, Thursday afternoon in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in the Bradley Center.
With the loss, the Eagles season comes to a close with a 26-7 mark while Butler improves to 24-8. The 26 wins are the third most in program history for a single-season.
After trading baskets to start the second half Butler pushed its lead to 15 points, but the Eagles responded over the next four minutes as it went on a 10-2 run fueled by seven points from Keon Johnson. Xavier Cooks started the run with a three, but then Kamar Baldwin scored inside for a 48-34 lead. Then Johnson scored seven consecutive points beginning with a score off the drive as he blew past defenders. Then Johnson buried a three to get the deficit to single-digits at 48-39. Johnson once gainst blew by the Bulldog defenders for another layup to make it a seven-point game, forcing a Butler timeout.
“First, I want to credit Butler,” said Winthrop head coach Pat Kelsey. “Tip your cap to them. I think everybody kind of knows some of the things have been talked about, Chris and I are friends. I’m happy for him and his success and I think they’re going to really make a dent in this tournament moving forward.
“It’s been a very fun team to coach,” added Kelsey, speaking about his team’s 26-win season and NCAA Tournament appearance. “I told all those guys in the locker room that they have nothing to be ashamed of. They should keep their heads held high. They had a phenomenal season. In about six, seven months there will be a banner put back up in the Winthrop Coliseum and this senior class has reestablished Winthrop basketball to its right rightful place as a force in Mid-Major basketball.”
Cooks finished with a game-high 23 points as he was 10-for-22 from the field while pulling down six boards and dishing out two assists. Johnson finished the game with 17 points, five rebounds and three assists. Roderick Perkins joined them in double-figures with 13 on 4-of-6 shooting. The Eagles as a team finished shooting 40 percent while Butler shot 49 percent.
Winthrop hit nine threes in the game and finish the season with 313 made triples and a 9.48 average, both program records for a single-season.
Johnson’s three triples set a new single-season record with 102 as he passes Keon Moore’s mark. Johnson finishes his career as Winthrop’s All-Time leading scorer with 2,076 points. Cooks now has 1,262 career points, which ranks 12th all-time at Winthrop.
Avery Woodson led the Bulldogs with 18 points as he was 6-for-10 from three as the team finished 8-for-19. Andrew Chrabascz added 12 points while Kelan Martin had 10 points and eight rebounds.
Butler hit its first four shots of the game and led 10-5 early on and didn’t cool off, shooting 52 percent from the floor and 7-for-13 behind the arc (54 percent).
Following a 6-0 run by the Eagles that cut the Butler lead to 15-13 with 12:17 to play, the Bulldogs answered with an 8-0 run for a 23-13 lead with 10:21 left in the half. Winthrop cut the deficit in half with a Perkins three from the corner and a dunk by Cooks off a turnover with 9:15 left.
Trailing 28-20 with 6:11 left in the half, Butler pushed its lead to 19 points with an 11-0 run that was stopped by Perkins knocked down two free throws. Cooks scored on a spin move into the lane and dropped in a short jumper as the Eagles trailed 41-27 at the break.