Longwood wins Big South title, earns first NCAA tournament bid

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Isaiah Wilkins scored 19 points as Longwood advanced to the NCAA tournament for the first time with a 79-58 victory over Winthrop on Sunday in the Big South tournament championship game.

Top-seeded Longwood (26-6) never trailed, led by as many as 21 in the first half and 28 in the second half, and cruised against the second-seeded Eagles (23-9), a perennial Big South power that had won the past two conference tournament titles and hoped to win its 19th overall.

The two division champions came in on a roll. Winthrop had won its past 10 games, with its previous loss coming to the Lancers 92-88 in the regular season. Longwood had won seven straight and was making its first conference tournament championship appearance. Winthrop beat the Lancers in the semifinals last year.

Wilkins, who spent two seasons at Virginia Tech and another at Wake Forest before coming to Longwood this season, shot 7-of-11 with three 3-pointers, eight rebounds and three steals. Leslie Nkereuwem added 11 points. Justin Hill had nine points with eight rebounds and five assists.

Big South Player of the Year D.J. Burns Jr. led Winthrop with 14 points. Micheal Anumba had 12 and Patrick Good 11.

The outcome was essentially decided in the first half, when little went wrong for Longwood. The team shot 60%, making 8 of 10 3-point attempts and scoring 22 points off 11 turnovers to lead 45-27. Wilkins led the way with 12 points. Five players hit from beyond the arc including Nate Lliteras, who made three for his nine points.

A 13-0 run gave Longwood its largest lead of 28 during a stretch of the second half when Winthrop went seven minutes without a field goal. The closest Winthrop got after that was 16.

In the end, Longwood outshot Winthrop 53% to 41%, made 10 of 17 from behind the arc to 6 of 24 for the Eagles and scored 32 points off 19 turnovers, which included 10 steals.