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Liberty Falls to Winthrop in Quarterfinals of the Advanced Auto Parts Men's Basketball Championship

February 28, 2006
|  Rock Hill, S.C.
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Liberty Falls to Winthrop in Quarterfinals of the Advanced Auto Parts Men's Basketball Championship
Winthrop placed seven players in double figures as it opened defense of its Big South Championship with a 93-52 victory over No. 8 seed Liberty Tuesday night in the quarterfinals of the Advanced Auto Parts Men's Basketball Championship.

Winthrop (21-7) opened an early 15 point lead as junior center Craig Bradshaw led an Eagle attack that opened the game with a 17-2 run in the first eight minutes of play. Bradshaw's eight points in the run were all inside the paint, where the Eagles held a 46-6 advantage.

All-Big South First Team selection Larry Blair, who dumped 38 on the Eagles a week ago when the Flames upset Winthrop 78-71, led Liberty (7-23) with 25 points on 8 of 25 shooting. The Flames had problems finding an offensive rhythm in the game as they battled through two six minute droughts. The first drought came after Blair's opening basket at the 18:22 mark. The Flames would not score again until junior forward Damien Hubbard got on the board with 12 minutes to play.

With Winthrop leading 68-54 with 8:29 to play in the game, Liberty's six minute scoring drought allowed the Eagles head coach Gregg Marshall to empty his bench and got positive play from sophomore forward Scott Draughn (11 points) and sophomore guard Michael Jenkins (7 points).

Winthrop sophomore forward Taj McCullough tied his career-high with 15 points. Joining McCullough in double figures were Chris Gaynor (13 points), Bradshaw (12 points), Torrell Martin (11 points), and Draughn with 11 off the bench. The Winthrop bench contributed 49 points compared to 7 bench points from the Flames.

Even with Blair's 25 point performance, the Flames were never able to mount any sort of a comeback iin the second half. Hubbard finished with the game's only double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds.

The Eagles protected the ball well only committing a season-low five turnovers, tying a tournament record for fewest in a game, while forcing 17 by the Flames which led to 23 points. Winthrop connected on 35-out-of-63 field goals (55.6 percent), while holding the visiting Flames to 38 percent.

Winthrop advances to play No. 5 seed High Point, an 87-84 winner over fourth seed Radford, in the first of two semifinal games Thursday night. Tip off is set for 7 p.m. at the Winthrop Coliseum. The second semifinal will match up No. 6 seed Charleston Southern and No. 2 Coastal Carolina at 9 p.m. Both games will be broadcast live on ESPNU and streamed live as part of the Big South Edge at www.bigsouthsports.com.

Winthrop Head Coach Gregg Marshall

"Game one is in the books and we played very, very well and I'm pleased with our effort, execution, defense and our balance. We did a much better playing against this group tonight than we did last week. Tonight we were not flat or uninspired."

"Tonight we were ready for the opening tip. That's as well as we've played to a man in a long time. Every guy played very well tonight, from my vantage point. Hopefully we can continue to play this well."

"This is one game and we have to do it three. I understand we have a High Point team coming in here that has already won on the road and we are going to have to give the same effort and rebound and defend."

"That's the best that Taj McCullough has played since he's been here."


Liberty Head Coach Randy Dunton

"We ran into a buzz saw in the start of the second half as they certainly turned things up. Unfortunately, our defense didn't have any substance to it to start the second half and they took full advantage of our lack of depth and fatigue."

"They were certainly better today than they were a week ago when we played them in the Vines Center. They proved tonight why they are the best team in the conference with their dominating performance on the floor."