Tied at 56 with Campbell Saturday afternoon, Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey was delighted to see his older players taking over a timeout huddle.
“I felt like the first 12 minutes of the second half wasn’t who we’ve been in the last five weeks,” he said after the game.
The players felt that too, saying as much during the timeout. The Eagles closing the game on a 14-2 run en route to a 75-64 win over a direct rival in the Big South Conference standings.
For all the talk about Campbell scoring machine Chris Clemons, Winthrop’s own standout had the biggest say Saturday at The Coliseum. Xavier Cooks finished with 21 points and the Eagles held Clemons, the nation’s fourth-leading scorer, to just 11. He missed several late shots as Winthrop pulled away.
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“The coaches did a great job on the scouting report,” said Winthrop guard Bjorn Broman. “Coming into everyone knows Chris Clemons, how good he is. We tried to make the other guys beat us.”
Winthrop (13-8, 7-3 Big South) led 39-30 after a first half in which its defensive plan worked very well. When Campbell (11-10, 6-4) threw the ball inside, the Eagles didn’t risk leaving Clemons or Marcus Burk, who each hit 10 3-pointers against Liberty earlier in the week, alone outside. Camels big men Andrew Eudy and Mogga Lado were effective inside, but neither Clemons nor Burk got going in the first 20 minutes.
While the Campbell pair labored, Cooks and Anders Broman sizzled early. Cooks took the ball to the rim on the Eagles’ first two possessions, a clear point of emphasis for Winthrop. None of Campbell’s post players could keep Cooks from finishing inside; he had 13 of his 21 points by halftime. And Broman’s hot start -- three 3’s in the first eight minutes of the game -- made sure Cooks had plenty of room to operate inside.
Campbell got back into the game in the second half with a barrage of backdoor cuts for easy baskets. A 6-0 run midway through the second half got the visitors level, a corner 3 from Eudy and a Burk triple tying the score at 56.
Campbell even took the lead a few times in the next two minutes. But a scoring drought in the final four minutes struck the Camels at the worst possible time. Winthrop defended stingily late in the game, closing off the backdoor cuts that Campbell feasted on earlier, while several decent Camels’ 3-point looks rattled out. Also crucial: Campbell turned the ball over twice coming out of timeouts.
At the other end, buckets by Pickett and Cooks helped Winthrop slip away from the visitors. And Josh Ferguson and Jermaine Ukaegbu hit free throws in the last minute to seal a sixth straight win for Winthrop.
“A mature team flips the switch,” Kelsey said, referring to the momentum-shifting timeout with about eight minutes left in the game. “They can snap out of it. In those last six or seven minutes I thought we did a pretty good job defending and getting stops.”
Campbell made 23 3-pointers against Liberty, so Winthrop focused on the Camels’ shooters, primarily Clemons and Burk. Campbell coach Kevin McGeehan pointed out three backdoor layups that his team missed in the first half that may have softened up Winthrop’s defense before halftime. The Camels made just 3-of-19 from beyond the arc.
“Kevin does a really good job of putting those guys in good positions that make you make tough decisions,” said Kelsey. “You’re worried about them coming off dribble hand-offs for 3’s, so your motor is running so hard that you get overzealous and they beat you on a backdoor. What you can’t allow to happen is for them to get a couple of plays like that and it lessens your awareness on the other stuff.”
Campbell had no defensive answer for Cooks. He showed off a full range of finishes around and near the rim to score 21 points. He also had eight rebounds and scored a couple of key buckets late.
“Those were game-ending-type plays,” said Kelsey. “I think his best basketball of the season, and his career, is still ahead of him.”
“He’ll go down as one of the best players in the Big South,” said McGeehan. “He’s a pain to guard.”
Anders and Bjorn Broman both shot the ball well for the Eagles, Anders in the first half and Bjorn in the second. Bjorn finished with 18 points and played excellent defense on Clemons. The brothers combined for six 3-pointers.
Andrew Eudy was the fulcrum for Campbell’s offense, nearly every play running through him around the foul line. He scored a career-high 22 points and spurred the Camels’ second half comeback.
“He looked like Lew Alcindor today,” said Kelsey. “He was killing down low.”
Clemons missed all seven of his 3-point attempts and shot just 5-of-19 from the floor. He was almost unguardable against Liberty earlier in the week, but never got going against the Eagles Saturday.
“I thought our perimeter guys guarded their butts off,” said Kelsey. “Our guys on the perimeter especially really buckled down.”
Winthrop hits the road to face Liberty Thursday, Feb. 1 in Lynchburg.
WINTHROP 75, CAMPBELL 64
CAMPBELL (12-10): S.Whitfield 3-8 0-0 6, Eudy 9-16 2-2 22, Gensler 2-5 0-0 4, Burk 4-8 6-6 15, Clemons 5-19 1-2 11, Oliver 0-0 0-0 0, Lado 3-3 0-0 6, Nelson 0-0 0-0 0, Parker 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 26-60 9-10 64.
WINTHROP (13-8): Ferguson 4-9 3-3 11, B.Broman 7-11 1-2 18, A.Broman 3-7 3-4 12, Pickett 4-4 1-2 9, Cooks 10-20 0-0 21, Hill 0-1 0-0 0, Ukaegbu 0-1 2-2 2, Awad 0-1 0-0 0, Falden 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 29-56 10-13 75.
Halftime—Winthrop 39-30. 3-Point Goals—Campbell 3-19 (Eudy 2-5, Burk 1-5, Gensler 0-2, Clemons 0-7), Winthrop 7-19 (A.Broman 3-5, B.Broman 3-7, Cooks 1-2, Hill 0-1, Awad 0-1, Falden 0-1, Ferguson 0-2). Fouled Out—Gensler. Rebounds—Campbell 28 (Clemons 9), Winthrop 30 (Ferguson 9). Assists—Campbell 10 (Eudy, Clemons 3), Winthrop 11 (B.Broman 4). Total Fouls—Campbell 17, Winthrop 10. A—1,271 (6,100).