Story by Britton Barnette / Contributing Writer
The Blue Raiders overcome a tough shooting night to topple Winthrop’s defense.
Beginning their season with three straight wins for only the third time in the past eleven years, the Blue Raiders came from behind to take down Winthrop 76-65.
The Blue Raiders struggled to find their three-point shot in the first half, but even after going 1-11 from behind the arc, their defense and a strong scoring performance from Deandre Dishman, who tallied 12 points in the half, kept them in the game.
“We kinda had a lid on the basket in the first half,” said head coach Nick McDevitt. “I thought we were a little excited, our turnovers were a little bit higher”
Dishman was tasked with guarding Winthrop forward DJ Burns, a transfer from Tennessee, and managed to get him in foul trouble early to stimy their offense. This effort kept the score close, going into the break only down 36-33.
“What really helped is we got him [DJ Burns] in foul trouble early, so he didn’t get going,” said Dishman. “I knew at halftime that he was gonna come out aggressive and they were gonna go to him with the minutes that he was playing. And with me getting in foul trouble, we wanted to match his minutes, when he was in then I was in.”
The second half proved to be more successful from behind the arc, as they began the second frame with two threes from Tyler Millin as part of a 13-4 run that gave them the lead that they would hold until the end of the game. Finishing the game with better shooting percentages all around, including making 12 out of 13 free throws in the second half, the Blue Raiders looked like a different team.
“They’ve got an inside out attack that makes it really tough to defend,” said head coach Nick McDevitt. “And when you’ve got the players that they do, like DJ Burns inside and the three-point shooters that they have surrounding him, it makes them tough to defend.”
The Blue Raider defense nabbed 12 steals and scored 29 points off of turnovers in the game. Tyler Millin had a monster block on Winthrop guard Michael Anumba on the first play of the game, and Teafale Lenard had one as well. Josh Jefferson led the team with three steals, which helped to curb his poor shooting performance, as he finished 0-4 from behind the arc.
Winthrop guard Josh Corbin finished with 14 points, shooting 5-9 from three. Donovan Sims was tasked with guarding him, and guarding such an unstoppable player was a difficult task.
“That guy was really fast, you just got to try to contain him, and keep him out of the paint as much as you can,” said Sims. “A guy like that is going to get to where he wants to get, you just have to guard your yard and stay within yourself. Even though he might blow by you on one possession, you have to come back and tell yourself to keep trying to guard him.”
Eli Lawrence and Tyler Millin led the Blue Raiders in rebounds with 6 each, while newcomer guard Camryn Weston had an efficient night scoring 8 points off the bench, and shooting 50% from the floor while also making all four of his free throws.
Junior forward Deandre Dishman took home player of the game honors leading the team in scoring, including 12 points in the first half alone. Longtime Blue Raider Donovan Sims, who is now a graduate student, finished with 16 points, with 13 coming in the second half.
For Winthrop, DJ Burns and Josh Corbin led them in scoring with 14 points each, with all 14 of Burns’ points coming in the second half.
“I thought that the way we were flying around, our effort was really good. I was proud of the fact that we were able to out-rebound them, and also force 17 turnovers,” said McDevitt.
“To be able to go on that run and have fans in the stands that recognize it and get behind the team, make a little noise, it certainly got the adrenaline pumping for a lot of folks, including myself…. We were able to win a game when we didn’t shoot particularly well.”