ROCK HILL, S.C. – It was a record day for Campbell’s Chris Clemons. One quote from Asheville coach Nick McDevitt put that in perspective.
“We played this team twice, albeit once without Chris, in the year. We gave up 53 and 56 the two times we played them. Chris almost got that tonight by himself. You’re just not going to win games defending that way.”
Clemons’ 51 points were a Big South record (regular-season or tournament), a Campbell record and tied for the highest output in Division I this season (South Dakota State’s Mike Daum), as his Camels stunned second-seeded UNC Asheville, 81-79, in Big South quarterfinal action at Winthrop Coliseum Thursday afternoon.
“I’m proud of my team,” said Campbell coach Kevin McGeehan after the game. “We’ve had some ups and downs this year, a couple injuries at inopportuned times and things like that. We kept playing, and we kept getting better. I felt there was poise everywhere. I’m excited to get an opportunity to play another day. That’s all we’ve been talking about. Play to play another day.”
Clemons’ day began with a fiery start. The sophomore scored his team’s first nine points, giving his club a 9-7 lead. A 16-0 Asheville run put the Bulldogs ahead 23-9 at the 9:15 mark. A Mogga Lado dunk provided the first non-Clemons points of the contest, but got the Big South regular-season scoring champ ignited again. Clemons went on to score 14 straight points, keying a 16-2 Camel run that tied the contest at 25.
“Every possession matters, even the possessions when you’re up 14 in the first half,” said McDevitt. “You’ve got a chance to extend the lead to 16, 18 points perhaps there in the first half, and I thought we let our foot off the gas for one minute, and all of a sudden, it was 23-16. We were sloppy for one possession on the offensive end, and they went score-stop-score. Immediately, it’s a two, three possession game again, when we had a chance to push it to 18 or 20. I just didn’t think we valued those possessions.”
Campbell (16-16) took a one-point advantage to the locker room at the half, and the back-and-forth nature of the contest dictated much of the pace of the second twenty. Asheville (23-9) achieved its largest margin of the closing stanza on an Ahmad Thomas layup at the seven-minute mark.
Then, it was Clemons time. Again.
The sharpshooter scored 16 straight points over a four-minute span, taking that six-point deficit to a six-point Camel lead. Clemons scored just two points in the game’s final two-and-a-half minutes, but Campbell held back the defending Big South tournament champions to advance to the semifinal round.
“I think it was just my teammates,” said Clemons of his performance. “They did a good job finding me in open areas. I did a little bit of creating for myself, but they were very unselfish tonight (in) getting me the ball to put me in great positions to score.”
Clemons’ 51 points are an all-time Campbell record, eclipsing the Division I mark of 39 set by Clarence Grier, and the school records of George Lehmann and Johnny Marchbanks (46 apiece). Clemons finished 18-for-32 from the floor (8-for-14 from three) and 7-for-8 from the line.
Five Bulldogs finished in double figures, led by MaCio Teague’s 22. Alec Wnuk tallied 13, while Raekwon Miller, David Robertson and Ahmad Thomas poured in 12 apiece.
The Camels advance to play the winner of Thursday afternoon’s matchup between sixth-seeded Radford and third-seeded Liberty. That game will begin at 6:00 p.m. Friday at Winthrop Coliseum, and will be broadcast on ESPN3.
#7 CAMPBELL 81, #2 UNC ASHEVILLE 79
CAMPBELL (16-16): Hamer 4-4 0-0 9, Clemons 18-32 7-8 51, Gensler 1-2 0-0 3, Eudy 4-5 0-0 8, Whitfield 0-2 0-1 0, Oliver 0-2 0-0 0, Lado 1-1 0-0 2, Burk 1-4 5-5 8. Totals 29-52 12-14 81.
UNC ASHEVILLE (23-9): Miller 3-5 4-5 12, Robertson 3-8 4-4 12, Thomas 8-13 0-1 12, Teague 6-14 6-6 22, Weeks 3-5 2-2 8, Wnuk 6-10 1-3 13, Vannatta 0-1 0-0 0, Zilli 0-1 0-0 0, Rackley 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-57 17-21 79.
Halftime — Campbell 36-35. 3-Point Goals—Campbell 11-21 (Hamer 1-1, Clemons 8-14, Gensler 1-2, Oliver 0-2, Burk 1-2), Asheville 8-25 (Teague 4-10, Miller 2-4, Robertson 2-7, Vannatta 0-1, Thomas 0-3)). Fouled Out — None. Rebounds — Campbell 30 (Gensler 9), UNC-Asheville 27 (Wnuk 9). Assists — Campbell 12 (Whitfield 4), UNC-Asheville 12 (Miller 4). Total Fouls — Campbell 20, Asheville 14. Technical — None. A — NA.
Points in the Paint — Asheville 34, Campbell 26. Points off Turnovers —Asheville 18, Campbell 8. Second-Chance Points — Campbell 7, Asheville 6. Fast Break Points — Asheville 2, Campbell 0. Bench Points — Asheville 13, Campbell 10.