Charl Southern 46

(13-17, 7-9 Big South)

Winthrop 68

(27-5, 15-1 Big South)

12:00 PM ET, March 5, 2005

Winthrop Coliseum, Rock Hill, South Carolina

1 2 T
CHSO 25 2146
WIN 31 3768

Top Performers

Charleston Southern: K. Rice 17 Pts, 5 Reb, 1 Stl, 2 Blk

Winthrop: T. Martin 13 Pts, 9 Reb, 3 Ast, 5 Stl

Eagles haven't been since 2002

ROCK HILL, S.C. (AP) -- As the clock wound down, Winthrop coach Gregg Marshall did a little jig and wiped away the bitterness of the past two seasons.

Winthrop beat Charleston Southern 68-46 on Saturday to win the Big South Conference title and the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

That's where Winthrop (27-5) used to go on a regular basis. The Eagles made it in each of Marshall's first four seasons, but the past two years they were bounced from the conference tournament before the finals.

"It's a painful situation when you're not in it, when you approach things the way we approach them here," Marshall said.

Marshall tells his players at the first practice of the season they are expected to win the Big South title. They met their goal Saturday with a balanced attack.

When the Buccaneers clamped down on Winthrop's leading scorer Torrell Martin, two forwards who played like guards came through.

Six-foot-10 Craig Bradshaw led the Eagles with 16 points, making 3 of 4 from 3-point range, while 6-foot-8 Phillip Williams added 11 points on 3-of-5 shooting behind the arc.

"They are like giraffes who can shoot the 3," Marshall said.

Martin finished with 13 points and nine rebounds.

Winthrop is riding an 18-game winning streak, the third longest in the country behind top-ranked Illinois and No. 17 Pacific. With an RPI in the 80s, Marshall said his team deserves a 13th or 14th seed.

"We're going to be tough to beat," he said.

The Eagles shot 50 percent (11-of-22) on 3s, making up for a poor shooting game elsewhere. They also forced 19 turnovers and held Charleston Southern (13-17) to just four offensive rebounds.

"We were able to get some steals and that generated our fast break," Marshall said.

Big South tournament games are played at the site of the higher seed, so seventh-seeded Charleston Southern, who left campus on a bus Monday morning, was trying to pull off three wins in a row on the road for the title.

"It's tough. But that's the advantage they earned," coach Jim Platt said.

Kurtis Rice led the Buccaneers with 17 points, but was hampered by a wrist injury in the second half. Terrell Brown added 14.

Winthrop looked nervous through most of the first half. The Eagles struggled to run the offense and missed open shots.

But the second half belonged to Martin and Bradshaw, who played for New Zealand in the Olympics last year and said going to the NCAA Tournament might be better.

Martin made two 3-pointers and threw a nice bounce pass on the fast break as the Eagles jumped out to a 42-30 lead with 16 minutes left.

The Buccaneers then went on a 9-2 run to cut Winthrop's lead to 44-39 before Martin struck again.

He buried a 3-pointer from the corner. A couple of minutes later, Martin fought off three Charleston Southern big men for a tough rebound and threw his arms in the air, imploring fans to get excited.

Bradshaw ended the Buccaneers' last chance with a 3 that put the Eagles ahead 58-46 with 4 minutes to go.

"That's the thing about our team. We are so deep," Bradshaw said.

Winthrop is young, too. Ten of the Eagles are freshmen or sophomores, and none have been to the NCAA Tournament.

Junior James Shuler knows all about Winthrop's past success, and the recent failures have bothered him.

"To fall short the last two years, to be frustrated like we were, we had to persevere," Shuler said.

The Eagles are 0-4 in the NCAA tournament, with their closest call coming in the 2001 play-in game when they lost to Northwest State 71-67.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

Points 46 68
FG Made-Attempted 18-37 (.486) 20-52 (.385)
3P Made-Attempted 7-15 (.467) 11-22 (.500)
FT Made-Attempted 3-8 (.375) 17-22 (.773)
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 16 (0/0) 13 (0/0)
Largest Lead 0 22

2004-05 Season

Jan 25, 2005 @WIN 58, CHSO 45Recap
Feb 26, 2005 WIN 65, @CHSO 62Recap
» Mar 5, 2005 @WIN 68, CHSO 46Recap