Saturday , Mar , 03 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Winthrop captures Big South title in win over VMI

Rock Hill, SC (Sports Network) – Torrell Martin scored 17 points and Craig
Bradshaw added 15, as Winthrop captured an NCAA Tournament berth with an 84-81
victory over VMI in the championship game of the Big South Tournament.

Taj McCullough chipped in 14 points and hit the go-ahead three-pointer late in
the second half for the Eagles (28-4), who will play in the NCAA Tournament
for the third straight year as conference tournament champs.

Winthrop has won the Big South Tournament seven times in the past nine years,
but has yet to win an NCAA Tournament contest. The Eagles were beaten by
Tennessee, 63-61, in the first round of last year’s NCAA Tournament.

VMI (14-19), the tournament’s sixth seed playing on Winthrop’s home floor, was
trying to earn an NCAA Tournament bid for the first time in 30 years.

Travis Holmes scored 29 points for the Keydets, who had a chance to tie in the
final seconds.

After a lengthy delay to determine if a shot-clock violation had taken place,
the Keydets were awarded the ball with 9.7 seconds left trailing 84-81.
Winthrop extended its defense to the three-point arc and Reggie Williams badly
misfired on a 26-foot shot before the buzzer sounded.

Williams finished with 13 points in defeat.

Winthrop held a 40-39 lead at the break and opened a six-point margin on a
three-pointer by Martin just 2 1/2 minutes into the second half. But VMI would
not go away.

After the Keydets tied it at 53-53, the Eagles responded with the next eight
points. But back again came VMI with an 8-0 run, tying it at 61-61 on a three
by Fred Robinson with 9:12 to play.

The Keydets never went ahead, but a Williams jumper tied it at 66-66 with 7:24
remaining. McCullough then sandwiched a pair of three-pointers around a
Williams bucket for a four-point Winthrop margin.

A layup by Martin gave the Eagles a 76-70 edge a few moments later, but a 6-2
run again drew VMI within two at 78-76 with 3 1/2 minutes left.

McCullough, though, again had an answer with a shot from beyond the arc. After
a layup by Matt Murrer, Michael Jenkins also canned a three-pointer for an
84-78 lead.

Williams made one free throw at the other end and McCullough missed a three-
point try, allowing VMI to pull within three on Holmes’ layup with 55 seconds
to play. The Eagles worked the shot clock down and Jenkins missed everything
— although officials needed to check the replay to be sure — on a three-
point try, setting up the frantic finish.

Winthrop never trailed, but its biggest lead in the first half was seven on a
few occasions. VMI used a 13-7 run down the stretch to make it a one-point
game at the break.

Game Notes

Winthrop finished the season undefeated in Big South play…Jenkins had 13
points and Chris Gaynor added 11 with 10 assists in the victory…Murrer
scored 14 for VMI and Robinson had 11…The teams combined for 69 three-point
tries in the contest. VMI was 12-of-34 and Winthrop made 12-of-35…The only
Big South win in the NCAA Tournament was an opening-round triumph by UNC-
Asheville over Texas Southern in 2003. Asheville went on to lose in the first
round of that tournament against Texas.