Game #9-548: Campbell Fighting Camels vs. Gardner-Webb BulldogsMarch 7, 2013 6:00 pm
Myrtle Beach, SC
Back when I was at High Point, I really did not think of Gardner-Webb and Campbell much. High Point sometimes played them out of conference, but mostly away from men's basketball and its guarantee game slate. And that is because Campbell and Gardner-Webb were both in the Atlantic Sun at that time. And now they were playing in Conway for a trip to the Big South semi-finals. Six years ago, this is not a game I would be expecting to see in the Big South Tournament. But the Runnin' Bulldogs were major contenders in the conference going into this game. And Campbell was the preseason favorite in the North Division before injuries ruined a promising season. You do not normally during conference realignment think of the Big South taking in other schools. But the Big South in the last 15 years has added more Division I teams than it has lost.
Part of me struggles to get excited for a game like this, in part because these are teams I am less attached to as a Big South fan. It's not quite like the case with Presbyterian and Longwood, disrespected schools that struggled to find any Division I conference. Gardner-Webb and Campbell were both in a Division I conference before, and have since joined the Big South. Both schools each have different histories where they had a previous taste of the Big South. Gardner-Webb joined Division I back in 2002, opting to join the Atlantic Sun while having football in the Big South's fledgling league. The Runnin' Bulldogs had moderate success in the Atlantic Sun and even pulled off a major Red Line Upset over Kentucky one year. But their heart was ultimately more in their football conference, so they joined the Big South for all sports less than five years ago. Campbell on the other hand has been in Division I for over 30 years, and has been in the Big South before in the late 1980s into the early 1990s. But the Camels' refusal to play on Sundays led to conflicts with the Big South, and they felt they could get a better deal in the Trans America Athletic Conference which a few years later would become the Atlantic Sun. But with Gardner-Webb leaving, the Camels were a bit isolated in a conference located primarily on the Interstate 75 corridor between Tennessee and Florida. So they got back in with the Big South two years ago and have been happy since to be back where they belong. And one of these teams would be among the last four Big South teams standing. These were not teams I am accustomed to, but they are a good fit for the Big South and have been neither doormats nor overpowering their new conference.
And so to these teams' quest towards Big South glory began with Gardner-Webb having the upper hand. Gardner-Webb had the healthier team that had been playing better lately, and it showed early on. Gardner-Webb used a balanced attack to pull out to a 14 point lead midway through the first half. Campbell would not go quietly however, as a tremendous omgdunx by Reco McCarter sparked a 10-0 run by Campbell as they got back into the game. But the Runnin' Bulldogs would recover nicely, and led 34-26 at halftime. The second half would be more of the same as it took a while for Campbell to go away, but Gardner-Webb always managed to have control. The strength Gardner-Webb as found this year is to attack with a multiple number of options, and overwhelmed Campbell's thin squad. Gardner-Webb did not dominate, but they controlled the game the entire second half and would wind up with a 71-57 win.
It was quite possibly the least interesting game of the tournament. Neither team I could get attached to, and the chance of an exciting finish never seemed likely. And there were not any great individual performances here like the last game. It was kind of like the game at Presbyterian over a month before where the game provided little to remember it by. It was basically a generic basketball game. But these teams will likely provide more excitement in the future. The conference is wide open, and Campbell which is looking for a new coach will have an opportunity to succeed not too far away. And eventually, these teams will be in the Big South long enough to feel like they belong. That is more than can be said about some of the other realignment moves in college sports lately. You have to give the Big South and these schools credit for adding two schools who geographically belong here.
GARDNER-WEBB 71, CAMPBELL 57
CAMPBELL 13-20 (7-9) -- T. Freeman 5-13 0-0 11; A. Ryan 6-12 2-2 17; M. Harris 6-13 1-7 13; R. McCarter 2-7 0-0 5; A. Oliver 2-6 0-0 4; D. Leonard 2-6 3-4 7; L. Leek 0-0 0-0 0; T. Bremer 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-57 6-13 57.
GARDNER-WEBB 21-11 (11-5) -- J. Hill 4-8 2-4 10; T. Strange 6-12 0-1 14; D. Harper 3-7 6-6 12; K. Hartley 3-6 3-4 12; T. Newsome 4-8 7-7 15; M. Landis 1-3 2-2 4; O. Branch 0-1 0-0 0; M. Byron 1-1 2-2 4; J. Davis 0-0 0-0 0; I. Ivey 0-0 0-0 0; C. Hensley 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-46 22-26 71.
Three-point goals: CAMP 5-15 (A. Oliver 0-3; R. McCarter 1-2; M. Harris 0-1; A. Ryan 3-6; T. Freeman 1-3), GWB 5-13 (T. Newsome 0-1; T. Strange 2-5; M. Landis 0-1; K. Hartley 3-6); Rebounds: CAMP 23 (M. Harris 8), GWB 34 (D. Harper 8); Assists: CAMP 9 (T. Freeman 5), GWB 10 (T. Newsome 3); Total Fouls -- CAMP 21, GWB 15; Fouled Out: CAMP-None; GWB-None.
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