ROCK HILL, S.C. (AP) -- Bryan Smithson scored 25 points to bring UNC Asheville its first win at Winthrop in 10 years, 63-50, and a share of the Big South Conference title.
UNC Asheville (21-8, 10-4) tied Winthrop for the top spot, but its two victories over the Eagles this year guaranteed the Bulldogs the No. 1 seed for next week's league tournament. The top seeds host quarterfinal games, then Asheville will host the semifinals. The championship will be played at the site of the highest remaining seed.UNC Asheville had not won at Winthrop since the 1997-98 season. The Eagles have won seven of the past nine Big South Conference tournaments.The Bulldogs' 21 wins this season are the school's most since the 1983-84 team had that many.Smithson was a big reason why. Against the Eagles, he had all but two of his points after halftime and tied a UNC Asheville record by going 13-of-13 from the foul line.Michael Jenkins' 3-pointer took Winthrop into a 30-all tie before Smithson and the Bulldogs pulled away.John Williams and K.J. Garland gave UNC Asheville the lead for good, 34-30. Then Smithson hit two 3-pointers. By the time Smithson hit a jumper a few minutes later, the Bulldogs were ahead 45-34.They increased the lead to as many as 18 points, 57-39, down the stretch.Chris Gaynor had 12 points to lead three-time defending Big South tournament champ Winthrop, which was held to 32 percent shooting (17 of 53) from the field.UNC Asheville's 7-foot-7 center Kenny George finished with 10 points and nine rebounds.