Winthrop tops Radford for third straight NCAA trip
Updated: Saturday March 03, 2001 8:20 PM
ROANOKE, Va. (AP) -- Banged up and nearly blind in one eye, Marcus Stewart got just what he wanted at the end of the Big South championship game -- a chance to put Winthrop back into the NCAA tournament.
Stewart scored on a driving layup with six seconds left in overtime Saturday, giving the Eagles a 67-65 victory over No. 1 seed Radford for Winthrop's conference-record third straight tournament title.
"I felt no pressure," Stewart said of the final play, called with 34 seconds left and the game tied. "Everyone dreams of being Michael Jordan and hitting the last shot. This was my Michael Jordan moment."
The play capped a great finish for Stewart, who scored the Eagles' last six points after entering overtime just 1-for-9 from the field.
Part of the problem, Stewart said, was a bloodied left eye that took an elbow early in the game and only started to get better in overtime.
"He looked like he had fought Mike Tyson," coach Gregg Marshall said of the eye, which still had a deep red mark long after the big shot.
Stewart said it felt as bad as it looked during the game.
"I really couldn't see out of my left eye and my shots were coming off," he said. "In overtime, my vision got a little bit better."
And so did the view from the Eagles bench, where Marshall had dared not mention fatigue or anything negative before the championship.
The Eagles had left the court only about 17 hours before tipoff, when they finally wrapped up an improbable 67-62 double-overtime victory over Liberty in a game Winthrop trailed by 16 points in the second half.
"I talked about the chill you'll feel when that final horn goes off and you've got the most points," Marshall told his team before the game.
Now, they head for the NCAA tournament for a third consecutive year, the first team in Big South history to do so. And they got there by beating regular-season champion Radford in decidedly Radford country.
Highlanders coach Ron Bradley said his team helped the Eagles out.
"We were too pumped up" early, Bradley said after being turned away in his bid to lead the Highlanders to the tournament for a second time. "Down the stretch we tightened up and made a few fundamental errors."
The Eagles (18-12) were led by Tyrone Walker with 23 points and 10 rebounds, while Derrrick Knox had 14 points. Stewart finished with eight.
Andrey Savtchenko paced Radford with 21 points and Jason Williams and Raymond Arrington had 13 each. Williams drove 75 feet for a layup with two-tenths of a second to play in regulation to force the overtime.
Radford (19-10) had one final chance after Stewart's driving hoop, but Camara Mintz's 3-point try from the right corner at the buzzer missed and fans streamed onto the court.
Earlier in the overtime, Stewart gave Winthrop a 63-61 lead with a baby hook with 3:34 left. After Mintz tied it again, Stewart made two free throws with 1:16 remaining to again give the Eagles the lead.
Savtchenko then banked in a game-tying layup with 40 seconds left and was fouled and hurt, setting up a potentially controversial moment.
With Savtchenko heading for the bench in agony, Bradley sent in senior Byron Hall to take the free throw that would have given Radford the lead. But Hall, just 2-for-4 from the line this season, missed.
That set up the final sequence, with Winthrop calling a timeout with 34 seconds left, burning off most of the shot clock and then finding Stewart at the foul line for the drive that kept the Eagles' going.
"Winthrop basketball is not about beauty and aesthetics," Marshall said. "It's about heart and guts and blood and tears."