After the pasting VMI put on Coastal Carolina, I wasn't in the best spirits. I like VMI and how they play and it is fun to watch them torch teams, but not so fun when you have a rooting interest in the team that is getting crushed. The season was over for the Chanticleers, but there was plenty of tournament left to be played. Campbell and Winthrop were coming up next, but there was a long 40-minute wait between games since the first game ended so early.
I took this opportunity to catch up with Ian McCormick, who had also made the trip to Asheville. I went over and sat by him after I embarrassed myself at halftime with my poor shooting performance during a contest. It was hard to talk since Campbell and Winthrop both brought their bands which were having a duel before pregame. I thought Campbell's band clearly won, and it would be interesting to see if the Camels could do the same on the court.
Campbell had won the previous two meetings against the Eagles, but that didn't matter all that much in the first game. While Winthrop has had a disappointing season, they have seniors that have been in the one and done environment before and have come up big with Big South Championships. Campbell has the talent with great players such as Eric Griffin, Darren White, and Trey Freeman, but they came in losing three straight and really faltering on the road.
You could tell right off the bat that Winthrop was playing with confidence. The score didn't show it in the early going, but the Eagles were more active on both sides of the ball. It paid off for them when they were able to garner a 20-12 lead. The atmosphere was a lot better with the bands, cheerleaders and mascots there to cheer on their respective teams. It sure beat the silence that was all too prevalent in the previous game.
During a part of the first half, it looked like bad news for Winthrop after Andre Jones crumbled to the floor after a layup attempt. Jones is the go-to scorer whenever the Eagles start slumping on offense and his cries of pain while being attended to didn't look good for Winthrop's chances.
After the injury the Camels crawled back to close the gap, but Reggie Middleton stepped up for Winthrop. He hit several deep threes to keep Campbell at bay. I became distracted at a point in the first half when I got a text from my work saying there were some computer problems. I wasn't getting many details other than that, so trying to solve a computer issue while at a basketball game five hours away became burdensome. I lucked out though, since the shot clock kept malfunctioning, so during the delays I was able to call and somewhat get the issue fixed.
Sometime during my phone calls, Andre Jones returned for the Eagles. What looked to be a severe injury earlier didn't seem to be affecting him since he drained two 3s at the end of the half to help give Winthrop the 35-26 halftime lead.
A Jones three coming out of halftime paired with another Middleton trey had the Eagles up big right out of the half. Campbell couldn't do much to respond as they seemed like a different team than the one I had seen on their home floor. White wasn't getting much help, as Griffin couldn't get going down low while Freeman wasn't adding much either. Meanwhile, Middleton was continuing his outstanding effort and buried another three where he was well behind the arc to put the Eagles up 19.
Campbell wore down the lead down to nine points on a few occasions, but this game would be all Winthrop, as they cashed in from the free-throw line to be able to advance to the semifinals, where VMI will await.
I'm not sure what happened with Campbell. In the beginning of the year they seemed like to team to beat, but something happened between their 9-1 start and drubbing of Iowa on the road and the team I saw tonight. They lose Eric Griffin, but return almost everyone else. If the Camels can learn to win away from home, they will be a strong contender for next year. As for Winthrop, they are always a dangerous team come tourney time. They looked lost at times on offense, but were always a strong defensive team. If they can carry the same confidence on offense this Eagle team has a chance to win it all yet again.
WINTHROP 71, at CAMPBELL 55 02/29/2012
WINTHROP 12-19 (8-10) -- J. Jerome 2-5 4-4 8; G. Valentine 3-5 1-2 7; R. Middleton 7-13 6-6 25; A. Jones 5-16 0-0 14; M. Morgan 3-6 3-6 9; J. Bourne 1-2 0-0 2; G. Gamble 2-6 0-0 4; R. King 0-0 0-0 0; L. Brown 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 24-54 14-18 71. CAMPBELL 17-15 (11-7) -- D. White 4-8 5-9 15; L. Merthie 3-8 0-0 9; E. Griffin 2-5 4-4 8; A. Celestin 4-6 0-0 8; T. Freeman 2-7 2-2 6; M. Harris 1-2 0-0 2; A. Ryan 2-6 2-2 7; R. Ferguson 0-1 0-0 0; A. Horton 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-43 13-17 55.
Three-point goals: WINT 9-22 (A. Jones 4-9; G. Gamble 0-3; R. Middleton 5-10), CAMP 6-15 (L. Merthie 3-6; D. White 2-4; A. Ryan 1-4; T. Freeman 0-1); Rebounds: WINT 26 (M. Morgan 7), CAMP 25 (A. Celestin 7); Assists: WINT 17 (J. Jerome 9), CAMP 13 (L. Merthie 4); Total Fouls -- WINT 16, CAMP 19; Fouled Out: WINT-None; CAMP-None.