Winthrop cruises to Big South title, automatic NCAA bid
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ROCK HILL, S.C. (AP) D.J. Burns scored 22 points and Winthrop took off in the second half to a 80-53 victory over Campbell on Sunday for its second straight Big South tournament championship and automatic NCAA Tournament bid.
Burns finished the first half with consecutive baskets for a six-point lead and the Eagles (23-1) made their first eight shots of the second half in running away from Campbell for their 13th championship in 17 title-game appearances. They will be making their 11th NCAA Tournament appearance.
By the time the top-seeded Eagles missed a shot in the second half they led 36-21. The blazing shooting continued as the lead reached a high of 31 and they eased to their seventh straight win during a season when they had a 21-game win streak before a two-point loss to UNC Asheville. They are 43-4 in their last 47 games.
Burns, a 6-foot-9 sophomore, forward finished 11 of 12 from the floor with the Eagles shooting 79% in the second half and 63% overall. Kyle Zunic added 13 points with 3-pointers. Chandler Vaudrin, who has three triple-doubles this season, had 10 rebounds and six assists to go with eight points.
Winthrop won the tournament title last year only to see their NCAA Tournament bid dissolve with the COVID-19 crisis.
"Oh man, it's so great to be back here, knowing the opportunity we had last year and unfortunately events took it away from us," said Burns, who transferred from Tennessee two years ago. "It feels good to back here and have a second shot to do it again.
"We work as hard or harder than anybody in the country and we're gonna to go out and go play our game, play our style to speed them up or slowing down if you need to. We're all gonna do whatever it takes to win. That's a part of our culture that the coaches instilled in us from Day One."
Third-seeded Campbell (17-10) came in on a nine-game win streak and looking for its first NCAA appearance in 29 years. Though the Camels lost a two-game series at Winthrop during the regular season, one of those losses came by just a point. But this time, they led only once - at 2-0.
Jordan Whitfield scored 18 points and Ricky Clemons 10 for Campbell.
Winthrop won its three tournament games by an average of nearly 26 points.
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Updated March 7, 2021