by Justin Mathis
SPARTANBURG, S.C. – According to USC Upstate head coach Dave Dickerson, the Spartans basketball team watched a speech from the movie “Any Given Sunday” on Tuesday evening and took to said speech leading into their Big South showdown with Chris Clemons and the Campbell Camels on Wednesday.
It was a battle from the opening tipoff in the Sparkle City, but when the final horn sounded, Chris Clemons helped Campbell fend off a late charge in the second half to emerge with an 85-73 victory over Upstate.
Everette Hammond scored the first five points of the contest for Upstate, staking them to a 5-2 lead early on. Campbell retook the lead with an 11-2 run with less than 14 minutes to go in the first half. Upstate trimmed the Camels’ lead down to five points on a three pointer from Pat Welch, but the Camels eventually took a 13 point advantage into the locker room.
“(It was) one of those games where the pace and the feel of it was slower, even though there was a fair amount of points scored,” Campbell head coach Kevin McGeehan said. “It’s hard to have balance (on offense) when you have the nation’s leading scorer (Clemons), but we do try to play through our center Andrew Eudy. I think that provides a lot of good looks for him and for others.”
Not long after the second half began, the Camels extended their lead out to 18 points following an Issac Chatman jam less than a minute in.
Upstate responded with an 11-0 run, keyed by three-pointers from Deion Holmes and Dalvin White, to pull within seven. A couple of moments later, Holmes knocked down another triple to make it a six point game, 49-43, with a little over 16 minutes remaining.
“Hats off to Everette Hammond,” Upstate head coach Dave Dickerson remarked. “If we didn’t have his effort in the first ten minutes of the game, it could have gotten out of control early. That’s a freshman growing up right in front of our eyes. I’m happy to see our guys play hard and to see them compete… and to see them give us a chance to win.”
Shortly thereafter, JaCor Nelson sparked a 10-0 run & helped the Camels push their lead out to a 59-43 margin, but the Spartans continued to fight.
Hammond helped cut the deficit down to nine after knocking down a pair of shots from the charity stripe with just over five minutes to go, but a pair of deep three pointers from Clemons, including one as the shot clock expired from about 30 feet away, cut Upstate’s rally short.
“You don’t want to drop a game like this,” Clemons said. “We’re in the spot that we want to be in, fighting for first place on Saturday. I think they made a few more shots and they’re missing one of their key guys, so (they had) guys stepping up and making big plays that they weren’t making the first time around. They were tough to guard tonight and gave us all that we could handle.”
Clemons led all scorers with 32 points, two points over his nation-leading 30.1 points per game. Nelson also finished in double figures with 17 points for Campbell, as well as Andrew Eudy, who notched a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Deion Holmes led Upstate with a team-high 22 points, followed by Hammond, who set a new career-high with 20 points. With his 22 point performance on Wednesday, Holmes passed Kevin Harrington (2000-2004) for sixth place on the USC Upstate all-time scoring list.
Campbell (18-11, 11-4 Big South) will return home to Buies Creek, where they will face Radford for the Big South regular season championship on Saturday at 2 PM.
USC Upstate will wrap up the regular season on Saturday, when they play host to Hampton on Senior Day at 4 PM. According to Dickerson, the Spartans are hopeful that they will get Moore back in the lineup this weekend.
“He went through some shooting drills with us (Monday and Tuesday) at practice.” Dickerson stated. “His cast is off right now and (Malik) says that he is feeling good, so if he can go through two more days of practice, then we can put him out there. He wants to play, we need him to play, and hopefully, he’s able to play.”