The Campbell Fighting Camels have been the surprise of the Big South and the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers aren't far behind.. Both teams came into Saturday as the only two 5-2 teams in the Big South and both just so happened to meet up in Buies Creek today in front of a national television audience on ESPNU.
The Camel Crazies were in the full effect today and the 3,220 seat Pope Convocation Center was packed to the gills. First year head coach has rejuvenated the Camels' program with a great start to conference play, if you remember back to December the Camels were among the worst teams in the country after a home loss to Division II Chowan.
Cliff Ellis' Chanticleers tried to take the crowd out of the game early in this one and the Chants grabbed their biggest lead of the first half with a 19-12 lead at the 10:51 mark courtesy of a Elijah Wilson three pointer.
The Camels answered quickly and had the Crazies back rocking after two Darius Leonard three pointers that pulled Campbell within one point at 21-20 with 9:03 left. The momentum wouldn't last long though as Josh Cameron would nail a three, get fouled, and complete a four point play for the Chants.
Cameron has been quite the story himself this year for Coastal Carolina. The junior college transfer is averaging 14.5 points, 2.9 assists, and 2.1 rebounds per game. His performance has been so good this year that he has stolen the starting point guard job from South Carolina transfer Eric Smith.
After the Cameron four point play the pace in Pope Convocation Center would slow down quite a bit for the remainder of the first half. Coastal would close the half with a 35-32 lead. The Camels would have been in a bad spot going into the break if it wasn't for Darius Leonard. The 6'9 junior had 15 points and two big blocks at the half.
Coastal's Badou Diagne would pick up an early technical in the second half after an emphatic dunk after which he decided to jaw a bit. Andrew Ryan would convert both free throws and then nail a three at the 16:32 mark to give the Camels their first lead at 43-41 since the first three and half minutes of the first half.
The Camels lead wouldn't last long though and Diagne would once again suck the air out of the building with another monster dunk at the 11:58 mark to give the Chants a 49-45 lead. A Warren Gillis layup would stretch the Chants lead to six points at the under eight minute media timeout.
Campbell would go nearly 11 minutes without a field goal until a Luke Moyer layup with 5:53 left. Somehow though the layup would pull the Camels within two points at 51-49.
Coastal would once again expand their lead as Campbell would implode in the last four minutes of the game. Leek Leek missed a wide open layup to cut the Chants lead to three with 2:20 left. The Camels would follow up that possession by coughing up the ball. A 30 footer from Luke Moyer would rescue a confused Camels offense and brings the game to 59-55 with 57 seconds left.
The Chants then started to be the team that was in the middle of an implosion. Elijah Wilson air-balled a jumper and Leek Leek redeemed himself with a three to make it 59-58 with 22 seconds left. Josh Cameron extended the Chants lead to 61-58 at the free throw line and gave the Camels the last shot.
Reco McCarter took that last shot from three but found iron. Campbell did not crash the boards, which was a huge story in this one, and Coastal would grab their first win in Buies Creek since 1993 61-58.
Coastal owned the paint today, as evidenced by their plus 22 points scoring margin in the paint and 19 offensive rebounds. Daigne lead the Chants on the boards with 7 rebounds and also added 8 points. Gillis was the scoring leader for Cliff Ellis with 18 points, while Wilson and Cameron both added 13 points each.
Coastal also shutdown Darius Leonard in the second half, as he only scored one point in the second stanza to finish with 16. Andrew Ryan was the only other Camel in double-figures with 10 points.
The Chanticleers are now the only six win team in Big South play and they will now host High Point and Longwood at home next week. Campbell now has a tough road back to the winning column as they head to UNC Asheville and Winthrop next week.