ROCK HILL, S.C. – Playing back-to-back games – even for college players – can prove to be quite the challenge. After Campbell engaged Winthrop in a slugfest in game one of its Big South series Wednesday, Eagles coach Pat Kelsey was confident — as always — in his club, but still had to wonder how it would respond Thursday.
The response was about as emphatic as he could hope.
Six Eagles finished in double figures to help Winthrop again fend off a pesky Camel club, as Winthrop claimed a 94-76 victory Thursday afternoon at Winthrop Coliseum.
“I really was impressed with our players’ response, from the time the buzzer sounded (after game one) to the time the ball went up (Thursday),” Kelsey said. “I give a ton of credit to my coaching staff, who I think is the best in the country … The job those guys do in preparing and getting our guys ready to play, I think, is a big reason we won today.”
Winthrop (7-0, 4-0 Big South) flexed its depth early on, looking like the fresher team in the second game of the series. The Eagles broke open an early back-and-forth affair, riding a 10-2 burst to an 11-point lead with 6:31 remaining in the first half. A Chase Claxton layup extended the Winthrop margin to its peak at 15 with 2:30 to play. Campbell (4-5, 0-2) knifed the margin to 12 at the interval on the strength of a Jordan Whitfield bucket and free throw.
The Camels flashed the same ability to hang close as they did in game one, gradually whittling the double-digit Eagle lead to five points on the back of an 11-4 run out of the locker room. Winthrop again countered, however, with a Kyle Zunic triple returning the margin to double digits at the 7:35 mark. Campbell continued to fight but could draw no closer than eight points for the remainder of the contest as Winthrop proved simply too significant of a hurdle.
“Our kids responded well. There were a lot of things to clean up, but I think they stayed locked in,” Kelsey commented. “I was proud of how it all came out.”
Jordan Whitfield again paced Campbell in scoring, compiling 20 points on the day on a 5-for-14 shooting effort. Three Camels joined Whitfield in double figures, as Cedric Henderson tallied 15 while Jesus Carralero and Austin McCullough added 12 apiece. Campbell connected on 44 percent (23-of-52) of its attempts from the deck but managed just 5-for-15 (33 percent) from beyond the arc after a strong effort from distance in game one.
The multitude of Eagle scorers was led by 15 each from Adonis Arms and DJ Burns. Burns notched his 15 in just 14 minutes of game action. Chase Claxton finished two boards shy of a double-double, scoring 14. Charles Falden added 11, with 10 from Kyle Zunic and Chandler Vaudrin. Vaudrin, the active NCAA leader in triple-doubles, turned in another Thursday, snaring 13 caroms and dishing 10 dimes.
Claxton and Zunic particularly drew praise from their coach.
“Chase and Kyle, who are just unsung heroes on our team…workmanlike, they don’t get many plays called for them, but they’re just crucial pieces,” stated Kelsey. “You just trust them.
“They just never stop. It’s just total relentless effort all the time. I just think those guys don’t get enough of the credit, and they are both, in my mind, great college players. To a coach, they are valued beyond belief. They are as important, as valuable of a player as we have on the roster.”
Both teams next face off against High Point. The Panthers will visit Buies Creek, North Carolina, to square off with Campbell Monday and Tuesday. Tip time for both games is set for 2:00 (Eastern). Winthrop ventures to the Millis Center January 9th and 10th to battle Tubby Smith’s club. Those games are also slated to begin at 2:00.