ROCK HILL, S.C. — The trio of Keon Johnson, Xavier Cooks and Jimmy Gavin combined for 70 points as Winthrop University pulled away in the second half for a 116-84 win over the University of Rio Grande, Monday night, in men’s basketball action at the Winthrop Coliseum.
The Eagles, a member of the NCAA Division I Big South Conference, improved to 9-3 with their third straight win and the program’s 39th consecutive triumph against a non-Division I opponent.
The game was the second — and final — exhibition game of the season for the RedStorm (10-4) against an NCAA Division I foe.
Johnson scored a game-high 25 points and had a club-best four assists to pace Winthrop, surpassing the 1,000-point mark for his career in the process.
Cooks finished with 24 points and a team-high five rebounds for the Eagles, while Gavin netted 21 points.
Adam Pickett added 10 points in the winning effort for Winthrop, which had 13 different players score.
The game was tight early on, with three ties and eight lead changes in the opening nine minutes, but a ninth – and final – lead change came with 10:14 remaining in the first half when a layup by Winthrop’s Roderick Perkins put the Eagles in front to stay, 27-26.
Perkins’ bucket kickstarted a 17-3 run for the home team, transforming a one-point deficit into a 13-point lead, 42-29, following a layup by Pickett with 4:36 left before the intermission.
Rio Grande closed the gap to eight, 50-42, after junior forward Matt Rhodes (Westerville, OH) canned a three-pointer for 47 seconds left in the half and trailed by 10 points, 52-42, at the break.
Winthrop, which shot 65.8 percent from the floor in the second half (25-for-38) and 62.5 percent for the game (45-for-72), settled the issue once and for all by scoring 20 of the first 23 points in the second half and taking a 27-point cushion, 72-45, after a dunk by Cooks with 16:47 left to play.
The RedStorm got no closer than 19 points the rest of the way and trailed by as many as 33 points, 97-64, after a layup by Johnson with 8:22 remaining.
Rio Grande shot a respectable 47.6 percent from the field (30-for-63) and outrebounded the Eagles, 35-28, but 22 turnovers led to a 30-4 advantage in points off of turnovers for the Eagles.
Winthrop also enjoyed a whopping 60-26 edge in points in the paint.
Senior center Dwayne Bazemore (Columbus, OH) led Rio with 18 points and six rebounds, while Rhodes finished with 16 points, senior guard Travis Elliott (Ironton, OH) had 15 points on 5-for-5 shooting from three-point range and senior guard Kevonta Black (Nashville, TN) had 10 points and a game-high six assists.
Senior guard D.D. Joiner (Columbus, OH), Rio Grande’s leading scorer for the season at 18.5 ppg, finished with nine points and five rebounds before fouling out with 3:46 left in the contest. He was limited to just 17 minutes of playing time.
Rio Grande returns to action on Wednesday night when it opens Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play at Ohio Christian University.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.