Camels tip-off Big South schedule Thursday at home vs. Liberty

Marvelle Harris
(photo by Bennett Scarborough)
Marvelle Harris (photo by Bennett Scarborough)

BUIES CREEK, N.C. – Off to its best start (5-1) since joining the NCAA Division I ranks in 1977-78, Campbell opens Big South Conference play Thursday when it hosts Liberty (2-5) at Gore Arena.

The Camels opened the year with 5-straight wins, including a 77-61 triumph Nov. 23 at Iowa (where the team shot 62 percent from the field), before falling 104-81 at 25th-ranked Creighton last Friday in the championship game of the Dale Howard Classic.

Thursday's game is Campbell's first Big South regular season contest since a 74-68 win over Coastal Carolina on Feb. 26, 1994 at Carter Gym.  CU was a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference from 1994-2011 before re-joining the Big South last July 1.

Campbell is ranked No.-88 among the 345 NCAA Division I programs through games of Nov. 28 in the latest Jeff Sagarin Basketball rating.

Eric Griffin was named Big South player of the week on Monday after averaging 23 points, 12 rebounds, 3.8 blocks and shooting 75 percent from the field and 77 percent from the line in 3 games.  The senior forward from Orlando, Fla. scored 23 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked 6 shots in the win at Iowa, then had career highs of 29 points and 14 boards at Creighton.

Campbell ranks 2nd nationally in team field goal percentage (.545) and leads the Big South Conference in free throw percentage (.747), 3-point accuracy (.444), assists (17.5) and blocked shots (6.5).  CU is 2nd among league leaders in rebounding margin (+6.0).

Griffin leads the Big South Conference in scoring (21.2), rebounding (10.0), field goal percentage (.742) and blocks (2.83).  He stands 2nd in the country in field goal accuracy, 18th in scoring, 27th in blocks and 30th in rebounds.

Junior wing Darren White ranks 3rd among Big South leaders in scoring (18.8), field goal shooting (.530) and blocks (1.5).  Freshman point guard Trey Freeman stands 6th in scoring (15.5) and tops in free throw accuracy (.970).

Sophomore guard Rico Ferguson is 3rd in assists (4.3) and 6th in steals (1.8), while sophomore forward Marvelle Harris is 2nd in blocks (1.67) and tied with White for 9th in rebounds (6.3). 

The win at Iowa marked Campbell's 2nd victory over a BCS conference team in the last two years.  (CU won at Auburn 61-54 on Nov. 20, 2010).  The triumph was CU's 4th all-time over a BCS league program, including 1993-94 season victories at NC State and South Carolina.

Big South Conference teams have knocked off BCS schools 5 times this year.  Coastal Carolina defeated LSU and Clemson, Presbyterian won at #20 Cincinnati and UNCA defeated Utah.

Thursday's game marks Campbell's first Big South Conference regular season contest since a 74-68 victory over Coastal Carolina on Feb. 26, 1994 at Carter Gym.  Campbell produced a 63-57 (.525) record from 1985-94 in Big South regular season play.

Campbell owns a 7-2 record all-time against the Flames in Buies Creek, but Thursday's game will be the first played between the teams at the John W. Pope Jr. Convocation Center/Gilbert Craig Gore Arena, which opened in 2008.

The Camels and Flames are linked in each school's Big South Tournament history.  Campbell knocked off the 2nd-seeded Flames 53-51 in the 1992 tourney semifinals before downing Charleston Southern (67-53) to earn its first-ever NCAA berth.  Seeded 4th, Liberty defeated 2nd-seeded Campbell 76-62 to win the 1994 Big South crown to earn the first NCAA bid for the Flames.

Liberty was picked 4th in this year's Big South pre-season poll, while the Camels were tabbed 9th.  Liberty is 1-2 on the road this year.  The Flames won 75-72 at William & Mary on Nov. 14, but have lost their last 4 contests, including a 72-50 setback Saturday at Georgia State.

Senior guard Jesse Sanders was named to the Big South pre-season all-conference team after earning 2011 league player of the year honors.  He ranks 2nd on the team in scoring (12.3) behind senior forward David Minaya (12.7).

Following Thursday's contest, the Camels host High Point on Saturday in a 1:00 p.m. tip-off.