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Basketball postgame: Spoiled Winthrop rally a key moment

KEY MOMENT: Winthrop climbed within eight early in the second half when USC’s Dominique Archie missed a 3. But teammate Evka Baniulis grabbed the rebound under the basket and was fouled trying a put-back. Baniulis drilled both to make it 41-31. A possession later, Zam Fredrick started his run of consecutive 3s that pushed the lead back up to 19.

STAR OF THE GAME: Devan Downey (a game-high 21 points and five assists) had Winthrop coach Randy Peele shaking his head. “(Downey’s) such a hard player to defend that he impacts the whole game,” Peele said.

POINT OF EMPHASIS: During the opening eight minutes, USC had four steals, while Winthrop turned it over seven times, missed its first seven shots, and used three timeouts.

INJURIES: None reported.

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Branden Conrad came through in his first start at USC. The senior tied Devan Downey for the game-high with five assists, and had three steals.

Conrad, who played sparingly last season, was a surprise choice to start over junior forward Evka Baniulis. Coach Darrin Horn indicated it would be a game-by-game decision.

“(Conrad is) a senior,” Horn said. “He’s going to be a little more solid defensively right now, and in terms of assignment and fundamentals. And he’s going to do the things that we ask him to do. Not that Evka doesn’t. But that’s what we did tonight. It could change the next night, it might not.”

The other former walk-on, Robert Wilder, also saw extensive action for the second consecutive game, going scoreless in 12 minutes, but grabbing two rebounds.

“The positive side of this, Conrad got an opportunity to start, Wilder seeing more minutes,” Downey said. “It just gives guys an opportunity to show what they can do.”

USC football players Jasper Brinkley and Captain Munnerlyn were in attendance. If they were hoping to forget the previous day’s 56-6 loss at Florida, they were best served not looking down and to their left.

That was where several dozen Winthrop students made their presence known, sitting opposite the USC students. As their team was being blown out, the Winthrop students responded at several points by doing the Gator chomp.

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