The Winthrop men’s basketball team are back in the win column with its sixth consecutive homecoming victory under head coach Pat Kelsey.
The Eagles (1-2) beat Central Penn (4-2), 106-65, on Saturday afternoon at the Winthrop Coliseum to earn their first win of the young season and their 400th victory on their home court since the program began in 1978-79.
“That’s a heck of a milestone and just a testament to the caliber of basketball played over the years,” head coach Pat Kelsey said. “Homecoming is fun to see so many familiar faces. I saw Hunter Sadlon, who was one of our leaders last year on our NCAA Tournament team. I was able to give him his NCAA Tournament ring today and to see that look in his eyes when he received that ring, and it's such a momento...that's something you'll have for the rest of your life to remind you of a very special time and special group of guys.”
Freshman guard Kyle Zunic had the hot hand from beyond the arc for much of the game. After beginning the season 2-for-9 from 3-point range against SIU and Colorado State, the Australia native went 4-for-7 from deep against the Knights. He finished with 17 points and 4 assists.
Zunic’s fellow countryman, Xavier Cooks, also paved the way to victory as he recorded his first double-double of the season (16th career) with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
“It was just a matter of time because Kyle is one of those guys that lives in the gym,” Kelsey said. “He wasn't shooting up to his normal standards. You almost have to tell a kid like that to leave the gym. Go get some sleep. But he's a kid who can really score the ball.”
Right out of the gate, Winthrop’s shooting from 3-point range was exceptional. The Eagles hit four consecutive three point shots, including three straight from Zunic. After hitting just four three-pointers in the season opener against Southern Illinois, the Eagles hit 15 in the loss to Colorado State and 19 against Central Penn. They finished 16-for-32 from beyond the arc against Central Penn, and outshot the Knights as a whole 56.1 percent (37-for-66) to 30 percent (18-for-62).
In a lightweight matchup against the USCAA Division 2 Knights, 11 different Winthrop players received at least 10 minutes of game action before the Eagles travel to its first major conference foe, Auburn, on Nov. 24.
Charles Falden and Austin Awad both gave the Eagles a nice bump each time they came off the bench. Falden, the freshman guard from Richmond, Virginia, finished with 13 points, including three 3-pointers for the Eagles in just 16 minutes of action. He is and is 5-for-8 from beyond the arc through the first three games of the year.
Awad, a transfer from Eastern Florida State College, also added a pair of 3s for Winthrop.
Juwan Gooding led the way for Central Penn with 18 points and 3 rebounds off the bench.
Seniors Freddy Poole and Kellen Blake each nailed a 3-pointer in their final Homecoming, while Mitch Hill knocked down a pair of 3s to finish with six points.
The Eagles will stay in Rock Hill when they face Mars Hill at 11 a.m. Tuesday at The Coliseum for Education Day. Mars Hill is a Division 2 located near Asheville, NC, and is 1-3 on the year.