ROCK HILL, S.C. – The last time Campbell and Winthrop faced off on the deck at Winthrop Coliseum, a Big South crown was on the line. No trophies were handed out Saturday afternoon, but there was a similar feel. Winthrop entered the game having won five straight, all by double figures, with visiting Campbell the victors in three straight contests. Camel guards Chris Clemons and Marcus Burk entered the game as the first teammates to have drained 10 threes in a game, accomplishing the feat in a win Tuesday at Liberty.
Much like last year’s championship game, the day belonged to the home side when the final buzzer sounded.
Winthrop held Clemons to 5-for-19 shooting, riding a key late-game defensive stretch to a 75-64 victory before a reported crowd of 1,271 at Winthrop Coliseum.
“It was a big win for us at home,” said Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey after the game. “It’s key as you move forward on conference play, if you’re gonna contend for a conference championship, you’ve gotta defend your home court. You’ve gotta hold serve at home, and our guys did that tonight.”
The home side opened on a 6-0 run, followed by a 7-0 Campbell burst. Neither side was able to establish much separation early, until a Xavier Cooks bucket capped another quick 6-0 spurt and stretched the Eagles’ lead to 10 at 26-16 just before the six-minute mark. The lead hovered in that vicinity for much of the remainder of the stanza, as Winthrop took a nine-point margin to the interval. The Camels shot just 39.3 percent in the first half, and coach Kevin McGeehan attributed much of those struggles to a lack of activity on the offensive end of the floor.
“We were a little off in the first half,” said Campbell coach Kevin McGeehan. “We just weren’t moving like we can, like we do. So much of our shots that we get on offense are because of the way we move. We were just a little bit stagnant.”
Campbell (12-10, 6-4 Big South) knifed the advantage to five on back-to-back buckets from agile center Andrew Eudy. Winthrop (13-8, 7-3) extended the lead back to nine, before the run most expected from McGeehan’s Camels arrived. The visitors gradually cut – with the back-door cut, specifically – into the home club’s lead, going on a 12-4 run over a three-and-a-half-minute stretch and tying the contest at 56 on a three-ball from Burk. The lead then changed hands over the next seven straight possessions, with a spinning Bjorn Broman layup capping the frenetic segment and returning the lead to the home side. The play that halted the back-and-forth lead exchanges, though, may have been the final push the Eagles needed.
Winthrop forward Josh Ferguson went strong to the basket following a pass from Adam Pickett, converting the bucket and drawing a foul. The Eagle bench erupted in celebration after the whistle. Ferguson’s conversion moved the lead from one point to four, and though Eudy converted a bucket on the other end, those two points with 5:19 remaining would be the final time the Camels would dent the scoreboard.
“I thought it was a catalyst play. That was huge,” said Kelsey. “That was a great play. That sparked us.” Bjorn Broman added, “It was a big momentum play. We can score the ball. We’ve got a lot of scorers, but it came down to stops. That play really got us going.”
Kelsey frequently speaks of “kills”, a sequence in which his defense forces stops on three straight possessions. His defense got one, then another, then…yet another, and almost a fourth in those final five minutes. The Camels’ final 11 trips came up empty, putting a definitive exclamation point on a Winthrop defensive performance punctuated by question marks just minutes earlier.
“I felt like the first 12 minutes of the second half, it wasn’t who we’ve been the last five weeks,” said Kelsey. “I didn’t feel like we were leaning forward on defense. They were really dictating to us. We just said (in the under-8 media break), ‘A mature team flips the switch. They can snap out of it out of a media (timeout).’ I felt like, for the most part, that last six or seven minutes, we did a pretty good job of defending and getting stops.”
Clemons and Burk combined for just 26 points for Campbell. The two connected on 9-of-27 tries from the field. Clemons (11) and Burk (15) joined Eudy as double-figure scorers for the Camels. Eudy led all Campbell scorers with 22 points, converting 9-of-16 tries from the field.
“Andrew Eudy looked like Lew Alcindor today. He was killing down low,” said Kelsey. “He’s just a good basketball player,” added McGeehan. “So much of what we do goes through him … Who he is, is a guy who really facilitates for our team. He’s like the hub. He’s the center of the wheel, and everything’s kind of running through him and running around him.”
Cooks paced Winthrop with 21 on 10-of-20 from the field, adding eight boards. Bjorn Broman contributed 18 on 7-for-11 shooting, all while sharing the defensive responsibilities on Clemons. Anders Broman tallied 12, with Ferguson one board shy of a double-double (11 points, nine rebounds).
“Bjorn’s a warrior. He’s a warrior,” said Kelsey. “I don’t know if he’ll ever get the credit he deserves, instead of being on the All-Defensive Team, and things like that, because he doesn’t pass the eye test … He’s nasty. He competes with every fiber of his being. I just thought he gave great effort. That kid played to exhaustion today.”
Both teams resume Big South play Thursday evening. Campbell hosts UNC Asheville at Gore Arena in Buies Creek (N.C.), in a game scheduled to begin at 7:00 (Eastern). Winthrop travels to the Vines Center in Lynchburg (Va.) to take on Liberty. That game is also slated to tip at 7:00.
WINTHROP 75, CAMPBELL 64
CAMPBELL (12-10, 6-4 BIG SOUTH): Clemons 5-19 1-2 11, Gensler 2-5 0-0 4, Eudy 9-16 2-2 22, Whitfield 3-8 0-0 6, Burk 4-8 6-6 15, Oliver 0-0 0-0 0, Nelson 0-0 0-0 0, Paker 0-1 0-0 0, Lado 3-3 0-0 6. Totals 26-60 9-10 64.
WINTHROP (13-8, 7-3): A. Broman 3-7 3-4 12, Cooks 10-20 0-0 21, B. Broman 7-11 1-2 18, Pickett 4-4 1-2 9, Ferguson 4-9 3-3 11, Hill 0-1 0-0 0, Falden 1-2 0-0 2, Ukaegbu 0-1 2-2 2, Awad 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 29-56 10-13 75.
Halftime — Winthrop 39-30. 3-Point Goals—Campbell 3-19 (Clemons 0-7, Gensler 0-2, Eudy 2-5, Burk 1-5), Winthrop 7-19 (A. Broman 3-5, Cooks 1-2, B. Broman 3-7, Ferguson 0-2, Hill 0-1, Falden 0-1, Awad 0-1). Fouled Out — Gensler (CU). Rebounds — Winthrop 33 (Ferguson 9), Campbell 30 (Clemons 9). Assists — Winthrop 11 (B. Broman 4), Campbell 10 (Clemons/Eudy 3). Total Fouls — Campbell 17, Winthrop 10. Technical — None. A — 1271.
Points in the Paint —Campbell 40, Winthrop 38. Points off Turnovers —Winthrop 15, Campbell 10. Second-Chance Points — Campbell 4, Winthrop 4. Fast Break Points —Campbell 4, Winthrop 2. Bench Points — Campbell 6, Winthrop 4.