Team Profile: 2007 BracketBuster Recap: Winthrop 77, Missouri State 66

by Matthew Stevens | February 18th, 2007

Bracketography was not in the Eagles’ locker room, but allow us to speculate about the bullet points Winthrop head coach Greg Marshall listed on his pre-game blackboard:

  • Shoot over 50 percent
  • Make open threes
  • Find No. 15 (Missouri State guard Blake Ahearn) at all times
  • Take care of the ball

Check, check, check and check.

The Eagles (23-4, 12-0 Big South) rolled into Springfield, Mo. and played a near-perfect game in their 77-66 win over Missouri State (19-9, 10-6 Missouri Valley) Friday evening. In doing so, Winthrop made a strong statement to the Selection Committee that they would make a legitimate recipient, if need be, of an at-large bid.

Winthrop hung around in the first half and then took advantage of what looked like a tired MSU squad for its 13th straight win. The Eagles shot 64 percent from the field in the second half and hit 8-of-13 three-point tries to hand MSU its worst home-court loss of the season.

“This was a big time environment. This was a big win for our program,” Winthrop guard Michael Jenkins said. “Coach Marshall told us we were on center stage and that everyone was watching.”

Jenkins scored a team-high 25 points, including 16 in the second half, including 7-of-12 from beyond the arc.

“We just kept making big shots,” said Winthrop head coach Gregg Marshall. “Michael Jenkins shot as well as anyone has shot it for us in quite some time. He also did a yeoman’s job on the defensive end where he held [in check] one of the best shooters I have ever coached against in Blake Ahearn.”

Ahearn, MSU’s leading scorer, was held to only 10 points, and the nation’s fourth-best free throw shooter (93.8 percent) did not step to the charity stripe all night.

Missouri State was led by a season-high 21 points from backup forward Devon Mitchell on 7-of-13 from the field.

The Bears’ biggest problem was allowing their second-half offensive struggles to carry over to some lackluster perimeter defense.

Having been swept by Southern Illinois and Creighton, Missouri State missed a crucial opportunity to impress the Selection Committee tonight. Even with wins in their final two regular-season games, the Bears may now have to rely on winning the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament to get in the NCAA Tournament.

Winthrop, using only a 7-man rotation, used its athletic advantage to wear down Missouri State in its own building. With MSU trailing 41-37 with 12:53 left in the game, the Bears went to a full court trap, which played right into Winthrop’s style. The Eagles took off on a 25-14 run over the next eight minutes to grab an insurmountable 66-51 lead.

The scariest matchup for any potential NCAA Tournament opponent of the Eagles might be F/C Craig Bradshaw. The 6-foot-10 post player scored 16 points, grabbed a team-high five rebounds and stepped out to hit two three-pointers.

–Matthew Stevens

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