It happened again...
Last year the Campbell Fighting Camels got an opportunity to host Coastal Carolina for a game that was featured on ESPNU. After starting off the Big South season 5-2 the Camels game flexed to take on a Chanticleers team with the same mark in the conference.
In front of a pretty raucous crowd in Buies Creek, Campbell took a lead early in the second half only to fail in a 61-58 loss to the visiting Chants. Kevin McGeehan's squad had the same opportunity on ESPN3 last night in front of a national audience but in the words of Dennis Green, "WE LET THEM OFF THE HOOK!".
Campell lead by as much as 14 with about five minutes left in the first half and went into halftime with a 33-27 lead. Coastal would then go on a 9-1 run to take the lead with 15:55 left and clutch free throw shooting from Badou Diagne and Warren Gillis would seal another three point win for the Chants.
We all know that Cliff Ellis' squad is who we thought they were (Dennis Green again...) but who are the Camels? Campbell has dropped four of their last five and is now 1-3 in Big South play. The Camels are 4-10 against Division competition and found a successful stretch in December beating Delaware State, SIU Edwardsville, and UNC Wilmington. Can they find a stretch like that as a spark in Big South play?
If Campbell is going to find their footing in the conference then it has to be this week with three home games, but the Camels are already 0-1. Radford will visit the Creek on Thursday followed by Asheville on Saturday. Simply put, the Camels can't afford to drop to 1-5 with a stretch of five out seven games on the road starting next week at Presbyterian.
The Camels are in Big South contests as the average margin of defeat has been just above four points in conference play. The thing hurting the Camels the most is their abysmal free throw percentage of 60.6%, which ranks 345th in the nation. The worst part is that it's Campbell's two best players, Reco McCarter and D.J. Mason, who are the biggest offenders at the free throw line. The two account for over 36% of Campbell's scoring but are currently shooting a combined 59% from the charity stripe.
Last night wasn't even about the free throw ineptitude as Campbell was 7-for-8 from the line, but they simply didn't get to the line enough. Kyre Hamer stepped up with 16 points for Camels but you can't shoot 36% from the field and go 12-for-38 from three. Coastal made the same number of field goals as Campbell despite taking 21 less shots than the Camels.
So it's rise to the occasion or be buried in the Big South standings near the halfway point for the Camels. This may the biggest week for hoops in the Creek in quite some time.