ROCK HILL, S.C. – Winthrop's Xavier Cooks and Keon Johnson combined for 43 points to lead the Eagles over Charleston Southern, 86-72, at Winthrop Coliseum on Thursday.
The loss, coupled with Radford's win, means CSU (10-18, 6-11 Big South) is now assured of playing at home Tuesday in the first round of the 2017 Big South Championship. The Bucs will be either the No. 7 or 8 seed depending on their and Campbell's results in Saturday's regular season finale. They will play either Presbyterian or Longwood.
Winthrop (22-6, 14-3 Big South) opened a 30-13 first half lead and never trailed to keep its regular season championship hopes alive. CSU closed to within seven points late in the opening stanza but Winthrop led by 12 at halftime and by as many as 21 in the second half to capture its fourth straight victory.
Cooks hit all three of his three-pointers as part of a double-double of 22 points and ten rebounds. Johnson, the nation's tenth-leading scorer and a frontrunner for Big South Player of the Year honors, buried five treys en route to a 21-point effort. The Eagles started 10-for-20 from beyond the arc and connected on 13 total triples. They also posted a 22-6 edge in second chance points, taking full advantage of 17 offensive rebounds.
Christian Keeling notched his fourth double-double in defeat for CSU, tallying 28 points and a career-high 13 rebounds. Armel Potter added 18 points while logging all 40 minutes. Winthrop entered the game leading the league in field goal percentage defense and three-point defense, and limited CSU to 39.7 percent shooting and a 3-for-11 mark from downtown.
CSU worked its way back into the game after Bjorn Broman's three pushed Winthrop's advantage to 30-13 at the 7:05 mark of the first half. Keeling scored nine points to power a 12-2 spurt that whittled the deficit to 32-25 with 3:38 left. Johnson, quiet for most of the period, sailed through two threes late to help give the Eagles a 43-31 halftime lead.
An Antwan Maxwell steal produced a Potter layup to start the second half but Johnson and Cooks countered with 11 consecutive points to put the game away for Winthrop. Johnson drilled two threes 52 seconds apart, and Cooks nailed one of his own 39 seconds later before polishing off the spurt with a finger roll. CSU would draw no closer than 13 the rest of the way.
Keeling was named Big South Freshman of the Week for the sixth time on Monday, and showed that form once again. He had a double-double of 17 points and 11 rebounds in the first half alone. Keeling got to the free throw line often, converting 12 of 16 attempts.
CSU heads to Longwood to wrap up the regular season Saturday. Tipoff at Willett Hall in Farmville, Va., is scheduled for 2 p.m.