Winthrop makes early NCAA exit

03/17/2010 12:00 AM

03/17/2010 9:40 AM

DAYTON, Ohio - Winthrop entered the NCAA tournament as the poorest-shooting team among 65 entrants. They exited the tournament the same way.

The Eagles shot 29 percent from the field and lost 61-44 to Arkansas-Pine Bluff in the tournament's play-in game.

"We picked a bad time to play a bad game," Winthrop coach Randy Peele said.

The Eagles finished with a 19-14 record, falling a win shy of their eighth 20-win season. They became the first team to participate - and lose - twice in the opening-round contest.

Arkansas-Pine Bluff (18-15) made its first NCAA appearance a memorable one. The Golden Lions claimed the Southwest Athletic Conference's first tournament victory since 1993. They will add another chapter to their storybook season Friday when they play No. 1 seed Duke in Jacksonville, Fla., in the first round.

The Eagles last played on March 6, beating Coastal Carolina in the Big South championship game. The long break did not help.

"I think you saw the effect of having not played in more than a week," Peele said. "In the second half, we got frustrated. I haven't seen that in a while."

Winthrop led 23-17 with two minutes remaining in the first half, but UAPB closed the half on a 7-0 run. The Golden Lions (18-15) extended the lead with a 9-4 run to open the second half and never trailed again.

Mantoris Robinson closed his Winthrop career with 10 points and eight rebounds. His biggest offensive play came with 12:58 left when he drove to the basket to score and was fouled. His free throw cut the Golden Lions' lead to 38-34.

Terrell Kennedy took a lob pass deep in the lane and scored on UAPB's next possession. Winthrop's Matt Morgan followed with a bucket on a spin move to cut the lead back to four.

That was as close as the Eagles got.

Winthrop mustered three field goals and connected on 1-of-4 free throws in the final 11 minutes.

Charles Corbin led three Winthrop players in double figures with 13 points. Morgan, a sophomore, had 11 points and five boards.

Reggie Middleton, the Eagles' leading scorer, was 2-for-12 from the floor and scored five points. The Eagles' backcourt players made three of 26 shots.

Allen Smith led UAPB with 14 points. He was 4-for-5 on 3-pointers.

Winthrop struggled shooting from beyond the arc, going 2-for-21. That was a problem all season, but it often was masked by great defense. That didn't happen Tuesday.UAPB shot 39 percent, but it was 10-of-19 - including 4-of-8 from 3-point territory - in the second half to pull away.

"I think when I look back on this at some point, I'll feel real good about this season," Peele said. "We just weren't able to overcome (poor shooting) tonight."

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