MONMOUTH — Winthrop developed a powerful defensive identity last year en route to one of the best records in the Mountain Valley Conference. Now, the Ramblers can match their defensive tenacity with purposefulness at the offensive end, and they are the last unbeaten team in the MVC as a result.

Winthrop controlled both ends in an impressive 63-40 boys basketball victory over rival Monmouth Academy on Friday night.

The win improves the Ramblers to 9-0. Boothbay, which Winthrop hosts next Thursday night, lost its first game of the season at Dirigo on Friday night, 73-66.

“Defense is our identity. Forcing them to the baseline and sideline is our philosophy,” senior forward Dakota Carter said. “We’ve improved a lot offensively. We like to jump and run and we like to push the ball up when we can.”

Carter led all scorers with 16 points to go with seven rebounds, three assists and three steals. Taylor Morang added 12 points and seven assists, despite being sick. Jacob Hickey had 11 points off the bench.

The Ramblers forced the tempo with full-court pressure and with Morang looking to start the fastbreak at every opportunity, even after a made basket.

The pace quickened in the second quarter and the result was a 14-4 run that put the Ramblers in full control. They forced turnovers on four straight Monmouth possessions, then converted those turnovers into an inside hoop by Anthony Owens, a jumper by Morang, a flip shot off the glass by Morang after a Carter steal, and a Carter layup through the back door courtesy of a pass from Morang.

“That second quarter was the best quarter of our fastbreak,” Winthrop coach Todd MacArthur said. “I think they trust each other more defensively.”

Hunter Richardson temporarily broke up the run with a layup, but almost before the scoreboard could change, Morang was firing a pass more than half the length of the floor to Owens for an easy layup that made it 24-10.

“That’s part of our philosophy,” Carter said. “Anthony’s making a run to the hoop every time, so it’s good to him with that pass.”

“That’s just kind of the staple of our fastbreak. That’s what we work on every day,” MacArthur said. “Whether it’s a make or miss, we want to be able to run on all possessions of the game. Obviously, we run better on misses than we do makes, but that was a big step from this year to last year. We can still fastbreak off made baskets.”

Forced by Winthrop’s defense to play more frantically against the press and in their halfcourt offense, the Mustangs had 14 turnovers in the first half. Winthrop had three.

“It was definitely their pressure,” Monmouth coach Lucas Turner said. “You can try to emulate it in practice but you’re not going to get what they can do there. It was definitely them forcing us into a pace of the game where, if you’re not comfortable, you’re going to make rough decisions.”

Owens pounded the offensive glass to help Winthrop extend the lead to 15, 31-16, at halftime and the Mustangs (6-5) never got closer than 14 points after that. Morang led the Ramblers on a 16-5 run in the fourth to put the game away.

“He’s our engine. He’s our everything,” MacArthur said. “He’s the leader of our team. He initiates everything, our transition. He’s so important to what we do on every possession.

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33

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