January 17, 2012

Griffin and Merthie lead late Campbell rally for 54-51 win at Winthrop

ROCK HILL, S.C. – Campbell closed the game on a 13-4 run and rallied to defeat Winthrop 54-51 Tuesday night at the Winthrop Coliseum.

Eric Griffin scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half and blocked a 3-pointer that could have tied the game in the final seconds.  The 6-foot-8 senior grabbed 11 rebounds and finished 7-of-10 from the floor.

Lorne Merthie came off the bench to score 14 points, including a deep trey that gave Campbell (12-8, 6-2 Big South) the lead for good at 51-48 with 1:39 to play. 

Andre Jones led Winthrop (7-12, 4-4) with 17 points, but had only one in the second half when he went 0-for-6 from the field and 1-of-3 from the line.

The Camels limited the Eagles to just 29.8 percent shooting (17-57) on the night, 25 percent (7-28) in the second half.  During Campbell's decisive run, Winthrop made only one of its last 10 shots.

Campbell trailed by as many as 13 in the first half and 47-41 with 6:40 remaining before Andrew Ryan started the rally with a triple from the right corner that cut the gap to 3 with 5:32 to go.  Ryan fed Griffin for a dunk with 4:29 remaining that trimmed the margin to 47-46.

After James Bourne made 1-of-2 free throws, Griffin's put-back tied the contest at 48 with 3:38 to play.  After missing out on its next two possessions, the Camels finally took their first lead when Merthie connected from NBA range beyond the key. 

Jones missed on a triple with 1:02 left and Merthie rebounded; then hit two free throws for a 53-48 edge.  Gideon Gamble cut the gap to 53-51 with 43 seconds to go, and CU committed its 18th turnover of the game to give the Eagles a chance to tie or take the lead.

But Griffin blocked Matt Morgan's 3 from the left wing and Merthie made 1-of-2 from the line with 16.5 to play for the final margin.  Gamble tried a pair of threes in the last 8 seconds, but missed both times and CU won for the 3rd time in its last four games.

"It came down to the rugby scrum tonight – getting the loose ball, the long rebound and deflections on the defensive end," said Campbell head coach Robbie Laing.  "It was a good team win all around."

Winthrop hit 6 of its first 10 shots and jumped to a 20-7 lead when Jones knocked down a jumper with 10:33 to play.  The Eagle lead stood at 24-11 after Jones hit a pair of free throws with 6:47 to play.

However, Campbell reeled off a 13-3 run keyed by 5 points from Lorne Merthie and cut the gap to 27-24 with 1:50 left in the period.

Campbell trailed 31-26 at the break, suffering through its lowest-scoring half of the year.  CU hit 44 percent (11-25) of its shots, but only 2-of-11 from the free throw line (.182) while committing 12 turnovers in the opening 20 minutes.

Winthrop cooled off after its blistering start and missed 15 of its last 19 shots of the stanza to finish 10-of-29 (.345) from the floor.  The Eagles held an 11-2 edge in points off turnovers before the break and made 8-of-11 from the line.

"Our zone was lethargic in the first half," said Laing.  "Winthrop got good looks and they made them.  But from about the 8 minute mark of the first half, we stayed positive and started to play better on the offensive end."

Campbell entered Tuesday's game ranked 3rd in the country in field goal percentage (.506), but made just 44 percent of its shots on the night (22-50), including 5-of-13 from 3-point range and only 5-of-15 from the line.

However, the Camels claimed a 47-36 edge on the glass and a 26-16 advantage on points in the paint.

Junior wing Darren White entered the game as the Big South Conference scoring leader (19.4), but was held to a season-low 6 points.

The Camels travel to Radford Thursday (7:00) before returning home Saturday for a 3:30 p.m. start against VMI.  Radford defeated High Point 85-66 Tuesday night to claim its first Big South win of the year.