BUIES CREEK, N.C. – When two of the five leading scorers in Division I basketball take the floor, fans take notice.
This was the case in Thursday’s Big South quarterfinals, with eighth-seeded Hampton and Jermaine Marrow taking on top seed Campbell, led by the nation’s leading scorer, Chris Clemons.
Despite a tremendous challenge from Marrow and the Pirates, the host will continue its quest to send Clemons to the NCAA tourney for the first time. Clemons poured in 34, while Andrew Eudy notched a double-double, sending Campbell to the semifinals with an 86-77 victory Thursday evening.
“I’m super proud of the team. I thought the guys played really hard and tough,” said Campbell coach Kevin McGeehan. “I thought there was a point in the second half where we could have let the way the game was going affect us, and our toughness and resiliency really showed up.”
The host Camels raced out to a 9-2 lead early, then built the lead to 10 on two Clemons free throws. Hampton (15-16) countered with a 10-0 run to draw the game level, and after two lead changes, an 8-0 Camel run provided the host side with some much-needed cushion. Campbell took a six-point advantage to the interval, connecting on 47 percent of its shots in the opening period.
Hampton began the second stanza on a 9-0 run, giving the Pirates the lead at 46-45. The back-and-forth continued for several minutes, including a frenetic sequence in which the lead changed on seven consecutive possessions. The final lead change turned out to be the most pivotal, however, as a Clemons jumper gave Campbell a 68-67 advantage. The Camels would not relinquish the lead for the final six-plus minutes of the contest.
“When we needed stops, we didn’t get them,” said forward Greg Heckstall. “We said that once we go up, we need to get a stop. Once we went up, we didn’t get that stop. They got the stops they needed.”
“I think the kids fought valiantly. It came down to the end of the game, and we were kind of going play-for-play,” said Hampton coach Buck Joyner. “I think at the end of the day, they made one or two more plays than we did. Hats off to Campbell for the way they played, but I thought my guys fought until the end. We just didn’t come up on the right side of the coin tonight.”
Clemons scored 34 to lead Campbell and all scorers, passing Doug McDermott and Alphonso Ford to move into fourth place among all-time Division I scorers. Despite the point total, Hampton expressed no regrets with how it executed its game plan.
“We really played good defense. He was 7-for-21 … He was 17-for-19 from the free throw line,” said Marrow. “(We were) just keeping him out of the lane, shadowing, keeping two when he came off the ball screen, sitting in the paint. We did the game plan.”
“We’ve got plays for every defense,” countered Clemons. “We’re ready for any kind of defense anybody throws at us.”
Forward Andrew Eudy turned in a double-double, scoring 21 points and hauling in 14 boards. Five of those were offensive rebounds.
“I knew that (rebounding) was going to be a big part of this game, so I made it a huge emphasis for myself to just go after the ball,” said Eudy. “They’re a very physical team, a very good team, but I think (with) my lack of size, I use my quickness and my IQ to attract the ball. You have to know the ball and have a sense for the ball and where it’s coming off (the backboard).”
Guard Jordan Whitfield added 13 for Campbell, who played just seven players, with only six playing substantial minutes. Whitfield missed yesterday’s practice with a stomach bug, and guard Ja’Cor Nelson was unable to play in the quarterfinal game, due to the same ailment.
Marrow tallied 22 for Hampton, connecting on 7-of-20 shots. Heckstall added a double-double, grabbing 12 rebounds to join his 16-point tally. Guards Kalin Fisher and Akim Mitchell netted 10 apiece.
Campbell advances to tomorrow night’s semifinal, and will face the winner of the late game between fifth-seeded High Point and fourth-seeded Gardner-Webb. That game will tip at approximately 8:30 (Eastern).