SCOUTING REPORT: WINTHROP

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Winthrop University namesake Robert Charles Winthrop reaches for his
VCU-Winthrop basketball tickets in this photo from Saturday’s shootaround.

Winthrop Eagles (Nov. 17, 2012)
2012-13 Record:
1-1
2011-12 Record (RPI): 12-20 (271)
Guy to heckle: Derrick Henry,  So., G, (20.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg)

The skinny: Where have you gone, Gregg Marshall? Actually, any VCU fan should be able to tell you by now he’s at Wichita State. The folks in Rock Hill, S.C. have noticed. When Marshall loaded up his U-Haul and headed west after a wildly successful nine-year run at Winthrop, he took his wins with him. Five years later, the Eagles have sunk dangerously close to obscurity. They were 12-20 in 2011-12, the final season under Randy Peele, who was given some nice parting gifts, including a version of the Big South Conference home game, for his troubles.

Enter former Wake Forest and Xavier assistant – and Villa 7 disciple – Pat Kelsey. The 37-year-old Kelsey is charged with turning around a program that has suffered through three losing seasons in the last four.

There are some pieces to work with. So far, so far, sophomore guard Derrick Henry has put up big numbers. Despite averaging just 2.5 points in 7.1 minutes per game last year, the Covington, Ga. native has already pumped in games of 26 and 15 points this season.

There’s also 6-7 wing Gideon Gamble, who, despite his modest career averages, dumped a career-high 20 points on VCU two years ago in a preseason NIT game. Gamble provided nine points in the Eagles’ 66-55 loss to Indiana State Tuesday. But hey, Gideon is a pretty awesome name, so who knows?

Despite the Rams’ unfamiliarity with this incarnation of Winthrop, VCU Coach Shaka Smart knows Kelsey well enough to make some assumptions about the Eagles’ makeup.

“They’re going to play extremely hard on the defensive end,” Smart said Thursday. “He’s a Skip Prosser disciple, follows a lot of Coach Prosser’s beliefs. They’re going to play mostly man-to-man very hard. They’re going to rebound the ball extremely well.”

Quick hitters: Shaka Smart said Thursday he expects senior guard Troy Daniels to play at Winthrop. Daniels sprained his right ankle Tuesday in VCU’s loss to Wichita State… VCU won that 2010 Preseason NIT meeting over Winthrop 67-54 in Winston-Salem, N.C. Current senior Darius Theus scored five points and handed out two assists in that game, while Rob Brandenberg had eight points… Winthrop won its first NCAA Tournament game in 2007 when it topped Notre Dame in the first round.

WICHITA STATE LOSS REVEALS LESSONS FOR VCU

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Darius Theus provided 15 points, including a late, game-tying 3-pointer, but it wasn’t enough to carry the day for VCU Tuesday.

RICHMOND, Va. – If VCU learned anything in Tuesday night’s nail-biting 53-51 loss to Wichita State, it’s that the Rams are not yet a finished product.

Look, the Shockers deserved to win. They suffocated VCU with intense, post-season quality defense in an intense, post-season quality match-up. There were fewer open looks at the basket than there are music videos on MTV these days. The Rams were frustrated on offense. Wichita State outscored VCU (1-1) in the paint 30-12 and neutralized its “Havoc” defense. The Shockers (2-0) turned the ball over just 13 times, and the Rams scored just nine points off those miscues, an area critical to their success.

“I give Wichita State a lot of credit. They came in here and battled. They hung in there throughout the game and did a good job dealing with the crowd and the press. They were ready to go and they were certainly not scared,” said VCU Coach Shaka Smart.

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OTHER NOTABLES/QUOTABLES

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Wichita State center Garrett Stutz will be a challenging matchup for VCU Thursday.

PORTLAND, Ore. – Wichita State has not played since it was upset by Illinois State in the Missouri Valley Tournament semifinals on March 3. Despite the 12-day layoff, the Shockers didn’t seem too worried about coming out rusty on Thursday against VCU.

“We’ve been practicing hard,” said WSU senior Garrett Stutz, who is averaging team highs of 13.5 points and 8.0 rebounds. “We ended up calling some refs Saturday. We did an inter-squad scrimmage. The coaches haven’t let up, they haven’t taken it easy on us. Although it’s been a long time between games, I would expect the team to go about their business just like they’ve been doing.”

STUTZ RISES UP
One of the most significant differences between last year’s Wichita State squad and this season’s is the improved play of 7-foot center Garrett Stutz.

Stutz has practically doubled his production of 7.0 points and 3.5 rebounds per game last year to team-bests of 13.5 points and 8.0 boards. The big reason for Stutz’s emergence is simply opportunity. Prior to this season, the Kansas City native’s minutes were limited by his foul-prone nature. Stutz averaged fewer than 15 minutes per game last season.

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