The last time I saw Coastal Carolina and Campbell play it was in Buies Creek, N.C., and probably was the best game I had seen while doing the 800GP. While I was rooting for the Chanticleers, I couldn't deny how great the game was with Campbell winning in overtime. The win put the Camels at 3-0 in conference play, and they looked like a strong contender in the Big South.
Since then, Campbell has fallen off, with a 6-5 record in the conference. Any shot at a Big South title was put to rest when it lost to Presbyterian on Saturday. The surprising part was the game was at Campbell where the Camels have been playing well.
A large part of the Camels recent troubles has been the slumping play of Darren White. The usually high-scoring White had only 17 points combined in the past three games. This led to Robbie Laing taking him out of the starting lineup for tonight's game with CCU.
I figured Coastal may have some troubles with the Camels, but since they play so poorly on the road, the Chants would end up pulling away. CCU was in contention with Asheville for the right to host the Big South Tournament, but it had to keep winning to keep pace.
With that added pressure, CCU seemed to come out tight. Campbell had a early 9-0 lead while Coastal was forcing many of its shots. It didn't take long for Coastal to settle down and pull the lead back. Campbell started playing zone, so Dexter Moore was inserted into the game for CCU.
Moore, a senior, was once thought of as a future big-time contributor as a freshman. During my first year as a CCU season ticket holder, I remembered Moore dueling with a fellow freshman Seth Curry when he was with Liberty. Curry ended up with some crazy 3s and Liberty ended up winning, but I remember Moore stealing the show on the night with 29 points and several consecutive contested shots. The crowd was going crazy for him with chants of "We Want Moore!" Unfortunately in the ensuing four years, Moore has been relegated to "zone buster". Anytime an opposing team throws a zone at CCU, Moore will be given a chance to make a shot over the top of it. If he can't make his first few shots, he'll get the quick hook and you won't see him the rest of game. Once or twice a season, Moore will catch fire, though, and he'll have a pretty good game.
Fortunately for Moore, he hit his first shot, a deep 3, which was followed by another to cut the lead to two. Moore then showed off that he could do more than just shoot 3s and drove the lane for the bucket and a foul to give Coastal a 21-20 lead. Moore tallied another 3 and had 12 points in the half, and everyone was glad to see Dexter having a great game in his final season with the Chants.
CCU would keep the pressure on and had a seven-point lead, but a parade of Campbell trips to the free-throw line kept them in it. The Camels were down three going into the half.
The second half seemed as if it was all in favor of the Chanticleers. CCU extended the lead to double digits with some tough shots from Chris Gradnigo. Campbell looked as if it was going to have another game where it would fold on the road. Another 3 from Moore had the game at 48-37, turning tiny Kimbel Arena into a raucous atmosphere.
The Camels could have collapsed and went quietly back to Buies Creek, but they didn't. I don't know if CCU became overconfident or if Campbell finally just woke up. Darren White in particular seemed to get the message after his benching. He dropped in 12 in the second half and had an efficient game with 6-of-9 shooting. Coastal had no answer for Eric Griffin; then again no team in the Big South has an answer for him when he's playing up to his capabilities. He had a double double of 25 and 10 and was able to put CCU's thin frontline in serious foul trouble. He also showed some range, burying a 3 from the top of the key to give Campbell a 65-62 lead.
There were seven minutes to go, and CCU was still within reach, down 73-70 and looking for a big stop, but Trey Freeman hit a 3 as the shot clock expired. If that wasn't the dagger, then the 3 from Lorne Merthie on the next trip down the floor to put the Camels up nine was definitely it.
It was surprising to see the Camels come away with the road win. Despite its size limitations, CCU has been able to defend Kimbel Arena well the past few years. With the loss, it's almost a guarantee that the Big South Tournament will be in Asheville. Even though Campbell has already lost twice to UNCA, it still may be the biggest threat, especially if it can get Griffin, Freeman and White to all play as well as they did against CCU.
CAMPBELL 81, at COASTAL CAROLINA 75 02/07/2012
CAMPBELL 16-11 (10-5) -- E. Griffin 9-15 6-7 25; D. White 6-9 2-2 16; T. Freeman 4-9 2-2 12; A. Ryan 2-6 0-0 4; R. Ferguson 3-3 0-0 6; L. Merthie 2-5 4-4 10; A. Horton 2-6 0-0 6; M. Harris 0-0 0-0 0; A. Kalpic 1-1 0-0 2; A. Celestin 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 29-54 14-15 81. COASTAL CAROLINA 17-6 (10-3) -- K. Greenwood 4-8 1-2 10; S. McLaurin 5-6 0-0 10; C. Gradnigo 9-17 0-0 20; D. Moore 6-12 1-1 17; J. Pack 2-3 6-12 10; D. Nieman 0-3 0-0 0; A. Raffa 2-8 0-2 4; W. Gillis 2-3 0-0 4; J. Griffin 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 30-63 8-17 75.
Three-point goals: CAMP 9-21 (L. Merthie 2-4; D. White 2-3; E. Griffin 1-2; A. Horton 2-5; A. Ryan 0-3; T. Freeman 2-4), CCU 7-23 (C. Gradnigo 2-5; A. Raffa 0-3; D. Moore 4-9; D. Nieman 0-3; J. Griffin 0-2; K. Greenwood 1-1); Rebounds: CAMP 30 (E. Griffin 10), CCU 29 (J. Pack 6); Assists: CAMP 13 (R. Ferguson 4), CCU 14 (K. Greenwood 4); Total Fouls -- CAMP 16, CCU 15; Fouled Out: CAMP-R. Ferguson; CCU-J. Pack.