What looked to be a magical run for Campbell (17-17), came to a crashing halt in the Big South Championship game Sunday at Winthrop Coliseum.
Winthrop (26-6), the tournament’s No. 1 seed and host team, used to a 16-5 run in the first seven minutes of the second half to take control of the game. Campbell tried its best to make a come back, but every time it tried, Winthrop had an answer. The Eagles beat the Camels 76-59.
Campbell’s Chris Clemons, a 5-9 sophomore guard who captured the nation’s attention after his 51-point performance over the No. 2 seed UNC-Asheville in the quarterfinal game, struggled Sunday, especially in the first half. He missed 11 of his first 13 shots from the floor. He didn’t get going until about 10 minutes left the game. But by then, Campbell was down more than 15 points.
Instead it was Winthrop’s 5-7, 160-pound senior guard Keon Johnson who put on a show early in the second half that helped crack open the game. Johnson scored 12 points in the first four minutes of the second half. He finished with 26 points. During that stretch, Campbell struggled. After a Chris Clemons 3-pointer with 16:19 left in the game, the Camels went scoreless over the next four minutes.
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“At the end, it was tough to slow them down in transition,’ Campbell coach Kevin McGeehan said. “They got a lot of 3’s in transition that we really didn’t want to let happen, and we just weren’t quite good enough in that aspect. And I think a lot it had a lot to do with fatigue.”
“But I’m proud of my team big time.”
The biggest difference between the two teams were the number of options they had. Winthrop had multiple offensive weapons, who could score at almost any time. Three Winthrop players finished with 15 or more points. Campbell had Clemons, who scored 29 points, but was 9 for 27 from the floor. He was 6 for 18 from the 3-point line.
Clemons averaged 37.6 points per game in the tournament.
It was a tough loss for the No. 7 seed, Campbell, who had pulled off two upsets against the No. 2 seed UNC-Asheville and No. 3 seed Radford, to get to the championship game. A win would have earned Campbell its second ever trip to the NCAA tournament, and first since 1992, when it played Duke in Greensboro.
But on Sunday, the Camels just didn’t have the magic.