ROCK HILL, S.C. – After scoring 51 points in a quarterfinal upset of Asheville, many likely wondered what Campbell guard Chris Clemons would do for an encore. He didn’t break the 50-point mark again, but he did become the first player in Big South tournament history to have back-to-back 30-point scoring efforts. He also broke the all-time tournament scoring mark – before the half.
Oh, and there’s the small matter of his Camels playing for a Big South title.
Clemons poured in 33 Friday, as seventh-seeded Campbell moved past sixth-seeded Radford, 66-50, in the Big South tournament semifinals.
“He’s an all-around superstar. He’s a great leader. He has the ability to take over a game all by himself,” said Camel center Andrew Eudy of his teammate. “It’s been fun playing with him. He’s a big part of why we’re here at this point right now.”
The sophomore star showed no signs of slowing down following his breakout effort in the quarterfinals, knocking down two triples en route to his team’s first eight points. After a Highlander run to cut the Campbell advantage to four, Clemons went on another personal burst. The Campbell guard scored 10 straight points in a run that Radford coach Mike Jones lamented after the game.
“We just allowed him a couple of good looks early, and he didn’t really have to work for those first few. That got him right back (into) that rhythm again, which he never lost,” said Jones. “If we make it a little tougher those first few, (and) he misses, who knows how it turns out. He certainly had his mojo going right from the beginning, and I think we were responsible for allowing him a couple good looks early.”
Campbell (17-16) maintained some separation from the Highlanders for much of the period, but the Highlanders had an answer as time wound down. Radford (14-18) went on a 7-0 spurt that cut the Campbell lead to three at the interval, and left Jones feeling confident as the closing twenty approached.
“It’s a big game, and maybe they were a little anxious coming in,” said Jones. “Once we (calmed down), we played the game we wanted to play in the latter part of the first half. Coming into the halftime, we felt great. We felt like we had a chance to win this thing.”
Justin Cousin dropped a trey to cap the opening Highlander possession of the second half and tie the contest. A Cory Gensler layup and Ed Polite, Jr. free throw ensued, followed by a 9-0 Campbell run that knocked the Highlanders on their heels. Polite scored five straight points for Radford, cutting the Camel margin in half. The lead returned to double digits within the next two minutes of game action, and Radford was unable to draw closer.
Polite paced the Highlanders, scoring 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting and pulling down eight boards. Guard Christian Bradford contributed 12, along with five rebounds. Radford finished the game shooting 30.6 percent (19-for-62), connecting on 7-of-26 (26.9 percent) from distance.
Clemons’ 33 added to his torrid tournament pace, and the sophomore also led his team in rebounds (nine) and assists (four). Eudy added 14 points, with forward Shane Whitfield tallyng 11 points and eight boards. McGeehan spoke after the game of what Eudy brings to the club.
“He’s huge for us. The way we play, with our bigger guys spacing out and having to make plays, asking them to handle the ball…it’s unique,” said McGeehan. “What I was impressed with tonight was (that) he was much more confident with his jump shot. I’m glad to see him starting to step up.”
Campbell advances to its first Big South final since 1994 – they also defeated Radford in the semifinals that year — and attempts to bring home its first Big South title since Billy Lee’s 1992 Camel club defeated Charleston Southern, 67-53, in Anderson, South Carolina. The Camels will face Winthrop in Sunday’s title game in the Winthrop Coliseum. The contest is slated for a 1:00 p.m. start time, and will be broadcast on ESPN.
#7 CAMPBELL 66, #6 RADFORD 50
CAMPBELL (17-16): Clemons 11-20 7-9 33, Gensler 2-7 0-0 5, Eudy 5-8 3-3 14, Whitfield 3-8 5-6 11, Burk 0-3 1-2 1, Oliver 1-6 0-0 2, Lado 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-52 16-20 66.
RADFORD (14-18): Bradford 4-9 2-2 12, Hicks 2-7 0-0 5, Cousin 3-13 0-0 8, Polite Jr. 6-12 2-5 14, Phillips 0-5 1-2 1, Tanner 2-11 0-0 6, Holland 0-0 0-0 0, Rodriguez 0-0 0-0 0, Christy 0-0 0-0 0, Lutete 0-0 0-0 0, Bolstad 2-5 0-2 4. Totals 19-62 5-11 50.
Halftime — Campbell 29-26. 3-Point Goals—Campbell 6-23 (Clemons 4-9, Gensler 1-4, Eudy 1-3, Burk 0-3, Oliver 0-4), Radford 7-26 (Bradford 2-4, Hicks 1-5, Cousin 2-9, Polite Jr. 0-1, Tanner 2-7). Fouled Out — None. Rebounds — Campbell 42 (Clemons 9), Radford 34 (Phillips 8). Assists — Radford 12 (Hicks 5), Campbell 9 (Clemons 4). Total Fouls — Radford 18, Campbell 13. Technical — None. A — NA.
Points in the Paint —Radford 20, Campbell 18. Points off Turnovers —Radford 8, Campbell 3. Second-Chance Points — Radford 7, Campbell 4. Fast Break Points —NA. Bench Points — Radford 10, Campbell 2.