BUIES CREEK, N.C. – A trio of seniors will make their final playing appearances at Gore Arena in Campbell's men's basketball home finale against Winthrop. Amir Celestin, Eric Griffin and Lorne Merthie have been key figures in the Fighting Camels' recent success.
Coming off a key 81-75 win Tuesday at Coastal Carolina, Campbell (16-11, 10-5) hosts Winthrop (10-15, 7-7) Thursday (7:00) at Gore Arena.
Campbell rode a late 17-8 run and went on to defeat Coastal Carolina 81-75 Tuesday night. Griffin scored 25 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for his 11th double-double of the year as the Camels provided Robbie Laing with his 100th coaching win.
Darren White came off the bench to add 16 points, Big South freshman of the week Trey Freeman scored 12 and Merthie added 10 for CU, which shot 62 percent from the floor in the 2nd half. CU won both games against the Chanticleers, marking the first time since 2008-09 Coastal was swept in a Big South regular season series.
Winthrop suffered an 86-79 loss Saturday at VMI despite 22 points from Andre Jones. The Eagles have not lost consecutive games since dropping 4-straight in December.
On Jan. 17 at Rock Hill, CU overcame a 13-point deficit to beat the Eagles 54-51. Eric Griffin (11 rebounds) and Lorne Merthie led CU with 14 points each. Andre Jones topped Winthrop with 17 points, 16 in the first half.
Senior Class Notes
Over the last four years, Campbell has compiled an overall record of 61-57 (.517) and a conference mark of 41-34 (.547).
Campbell has never won more than 61 games in a four-year span as a Division I member (since 1977-78). The Camels can break the mark set from 1987-90 with just one victory over its final four regular season contests or in the Big South Conference tournament.
Along the way, the Camels won the 2010 Atlantic Sun Conference regular season title, and collected wins over "power six" conference members Auburn and Iowa.
A product of Miami, Fla., Celestin ranks 10th among Campbell's all-time assists leaders with 245 in 110 games. He is one of only 32 players in CU's Division I era to see action 100 or more contests.
He was a member of the 2010 Atlantic Sun Conference regular season championship team. As a junior, he led the team with 13 points in its 61-54 victory at Auburn, marking Campbell's first victory over a Southeastern Conference school since 1994. He enters Thursday's action in 11th place on Campbell's all-time games played charts and has score 544 points in his career.
Griffin joined the Camels in 2010 as a transfer from Garden City Community College and made an immediate impact on the program. This year he leads the Big South Conference in field goal percentage (.627) and blocked shots (2.27), while standing second in rebounds (8.8) and seventh in scoring (17.0). He leads the league in 20-10 games, including a 23-point, 13-rebound effort during CU's 77-61 win Nov. 23 at Iowa.
He was named to the Dale Howard Classic all-tournament team after Campbell finished as runner-up to nationally-ranked Creighton in the event.
Last season, Griffin earned all-tournament honors at the Global Sports Hoops Showcase; leading the Camels to wins over Middle Tennessee and Auburn in the process. He set a school record with 61 blocks as a junior.
In only 55 games, Griffin already ranks third on CU's career blocked shots (120) list and he has scored 825 points, while pulling down 428 rebounds.
Merthie will conclude his career as one of the best 3-point shooters in Campbell history. He already rates 4th on the school career charts for threes made (211) and attempted (519) while shooting 41% all-time beyond the arc.
A career 75 percent free throw shooter, Merthie enters Thursday's Senior Night game only two points shy of becoming the 25th player in Fighting Camel history to score 1,000 in his career.
He began his career by earning Atlantic Sun Freshman of the Year honors in 2009. One year later, he ranked second in the A-Sun in steals and 3-point accuracy while helping lead the Camels to the 2010 Atlantic Sun regular season crown.
As a junior, Merthie was named MVP of the Global Sports Hoops Showcase, where he led the Camels to wins over Middle Tennessee and Auburn.
Camels and Eagles Notes
Winthrop head coach Randy Peele spent 3 years as an assistant at Campbell (1988-91), where he helped lead the team to the 1989 Big South Championship game at Winthrop Coliseum. Coach Peele also helped recruit '91 Big South Rookie of the Year (and '94 BSC Player of the Year) Joe Spinks to Buies Creek. Peele is the only coach in Big South history to lead two league schools to NCAA Tournament bids (UNCG in '96 and Winthrop in '08 and '10).
Campbell radio color analyst Jerry Smith was head coach of the Camels for the first two meetings between CU and Winthrop in 1984-85 (which the teams split).
Winthrop has captured 9 of the last 13 Big South Tournament titles, most recently in 2010 when the the 3rd-seeded Eagles upset top seed Coastal Carolina 64-53 in the title game. Current Eagle seniors Reggie Middleton and Matt Morgan were named to the 2010 Big South all-tournament team.
Campbell leads the Big South with 646 free throws attempted (in 27 contests) this year, while Winthrop stands 9th with 440 foul shots attempted through 25 games.
Winthrop senior forward George Valentine is averaging 10.1 points and 9.6 rebounds against Big South competition.
Campbell leads the Big South in team FG% (.500, T3rd in the nation), is 2nd in 3FG% (.391) and defensive FG% (.429).
Following Thursday's game, the Camels are off until a Sat., Feb. 18 date at Northwestern (La.) State in the SEARS BracketBusters.
State Farm Basketball Tournament Giveaway
On Thursday, fans will be able to register at the Campbell vs. Winthrop Big South basketball game for the State Farm Basketball Tournament Giveaway. One fan will win a trip to the 2nd and 3rd round games of the Division I Men's Basketball tournament in Greensboro, N.C. One of the finalists will also participate in an on-court contest for a chance to win $10,000 in cash.
The lucky finalist will have a chance to make a lay-up, free throw, three-pointer and half court shot in 25 seconds. If the participant is successful, he or she will win $10,000!