ROCK HILL, S.C. – Campbell seems to have a knack for delivering a strong punch to Winthrop in the Winthrop Coliseum.
The Camels fell by just nine in Rock Hill last season, a game that drew Eagles coach Pat Kelsey’s memory of the phrase often used by his mentor, Skip Prosser: “Blow ‘em out by one.” That win was, at the time, the second-lowest scoring total by the Eagles in a victory.
Winthrop again followed that mantra Wednesday on its home deck, scratching out an 84-83 win over Campbell that defied explanation in nearly every possible manner.
“I told our guys (after the game) to prepare themselves over the next couple of months for those types of battles,” commented Kelsey after the game. “We didn’t play our best on the offensive end, and a lot of that credit goes to Campbell. Despite that — and despite the fact that they shot a very high percentage from the floor — we were able to come away with the win.”
Campbell (4-4, 0-1 Big South) controlled the tempo for a significant portion of the first half, just as it did in a February trip to Winthrop Coliseum. The Camels limited the Eagles to a 2-for-17 shooting stretch at one point of the period, building their lead as high as five during the home side’s icy patch. The Eagles then scored on three trips in a row, reversing the deficit and compelling a timeout from Campbell coach Kevin McGeehan.
Winthrop (6-0, 3-0 Big South) then extended its lead to double digits at the 2:39 mark, using an 18-9 burst to take a 37-27 advantage. Campbell continued to battle the home club, though, trailing by just six at the interval. The visitors connected on 64 percent (14-for-22) of their first-half tries, keeping them in the contest despite being outrebounded, 25-12.
The Camels kept much of that momentum rolling as the second half began. Austin McCullough ended a crazy sequence with a corner three to cap a 12-5 Camel run, forcing a timeout from Kelsey to stem the tide that produced a 45-44 Campbell lead. The Eagles responded with a 10-0 spurt out of that break, quickly seizing back the contest in building a nine-point margin.
“We have a veteran team, and when you have that, you have those guys that are almost extensions of you and extensions of the coaching staff,” said Kelsey about the players’ response during the stoppage. “That’s one of the strengths of our team – not only the depth that we have, but the veteran mentality that we have, too.”
Campbell refused to back down, however, keeping the contest in single digits and continuing to battle despite being overcome by foul trouble and significantly outmanned on the boards. The Camels never drew closer than five for much of the remainder of the contest, but limited the frequent bursts from Winthrop’s high-powered offense. Campbell’s Austin McCullough dropped a triple just before the horn to provide the final margin, but a free throw from Winthrop’s Charles Falden a second prior – on his team’s 50th try from the stripe – sealed the contest.
“I think the grit and tenacity that our guys played with were a big reason for (the win),” Kelsey stated after the game. “Conference wins are hard to come by.”
Jordan Whitfield led the visitors in scoring, tallying 17 from the field on 7-for-14 shooting. Jesus Carralero and McCullough provided 16 apiece for the Camels. Campbell knocked down 57 percent of its three-point tries (8-for-14) and shot 62 percent (31-for-50) on the game.
Chandler Vaudrin guided four Eagles in doubles, also finishing with 17. Vaudrin also hauled in eight boards and dished out five helpers. Charles Falden added 16, with Adonis Arms pouring in 12 off the bench and Micheal Anumba totaling 11. Winthrop outrebounded Campbell, 45-22, and finished the day shooting 38 percent (21-for-55) from the field.
The teams face off again Thursday afternoon at 1:00 in Winthrop Coliseum.