WINTHROP — Winthrop junior Jared McLaughlin didn’t blink when given the assignment to guard Richmond’s leading scorer, Zach Small, in Tuesday night’s MVC matchup with Richmond.
McLaughlin also didn’t let such a difficult task affect him at the other end, either, and ended up matching Richmond’s 1,000-career-point scorer basket for basket.
McLaughlin hit seven 3-pointers en route to 29 points to lead the Ramblers to a 79-61 win in a battle of the top two teams in the Class C South Heal point standings.
“My teammates work very well. They were screening very well and getting me open,” McLaughlin said.
“We asked him to play both ends of the floor,” Winthrop coach Todd MacArthur said of McLaughlin. “It’s a lot to ask of a kid, but one of the things he’s displayed is his physical toughness and his mental toughness have improved so much. He’s not going to complain about it. He’s going to do his job.”
McLaughlin got help at both ends from his teammates as the Ramblers worked to steer Small (29 points) and fellow senior guard Matt Rines (18 points) towards the sidelines, where another white jersey would usually be ready to trap.
The strategy seemed to throw Small off early as he was held scoreless in a first quarter that allowed the Ramblers to take control of the game with a 21-10 lead.
“The defense came from a team effort. Everyone did their job,” McLaughlin said. “I angled him and my teammates helped me trap him, and then we rotated very well tonight.”
Cam Wood added 17 points and 12 rebounds for the Ramblers (4-1), while Nate Leblanc (12 points) and Beau Brooks (10 points) also reached double figures.
Small adjusted to the defense and exploded for 14 points in the second quarter, which helped the Bobcats (3-2) take a one-point lead on two occasions.
“We always wanted to show two guys at (Small) and Rines,” MacArthur said. “It was something new. They probably haven’t seen it and it might have confused them early on. But obviously, he settled down and figured things out. He’s a great player. He’s probably one of the best in the MVC. We know we’re not going to keep him to single digits.”
But Leblanc and McLaughlin hit back-to-back threes, McLaughlin’s coming at the buzzer, to give Winthrop a 39-33 halftime lead that it would never relinquish.
Richmond hung around for most of the third quarter before McLaughlin hit a pair of free throws to put the lead into double digits for good, then, for good measure, added another 3-pointer with about one second left in the period to make it 59-46.
“We’re asking kids to play a lot of minutes, and I think about midway through the third quarter and near the tail end of that it showed,” Richmond coach Phil Houdlette said. “Winthrop’s physical size wears us down as well. We talked about combating the trap with diagonals, weak-side, getting the ball in the middle of the floor. Those just didn’t seem to materialize.”
Sam Figueroa fed Wood inside to start the fourth quarter, then found a cutting McLaughlin with a nifty no-look bounce pass for a layup that extended the margin to 17 points.