ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Carrying the program's highest seeding in 16 years, Campbell opens play Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. against Winthrop in the Advance Auto Parts Big South Championship at UNC Asheville's Kimmel Arena.
The third-seeded Camels (17-14, 11-7) have not entered a league tournament seeded as high since the 1996 squad was the second seed in the Atlantic Sun tournament. Campbell dropped its last 3 games of the regular season, but swept a pair of games from the sixth-seeded Eagles (11-19, 8-10).
All Campbell men's basketball games are aired throughout the Sandhills region of North Carolina on WCLN 107.3 FM with Chris Hemeyer on the play-by-play. Free audio of the broadcast is also available on-line at GoCamels.com.
Winthrop has also lost its last 3 and 5 of its previous 6 outings heading into Wednesday's quarterfinal. The winner will face either second-seeded Coastal Carolina or seventh seed High Point Thursday at 6:00 p.m. in the opening semifinal that will be televised on ESPNU.
In January at Rock Hill, Campbell closed the game on a 13-4 run to claim a 54-51 win. Eric Griffin scored 12 of his 14 points in the 2nd half and blocked a 3-pointer that could have tied the game in the final seconds. He grabbed 11 rebounds and finished 7-10 from the floor. Lorne Merthie came off the bench to score 14 points.
On Senior Night (Feb. 9) at Gore Arena, Campbell went on a 20-4 run late in the second half and defeated Winthrop 67-58. Merthie led CU with 14 points in his final home game, while fellow senior Griffin added 11 points, 6 rebounds and 3 blocks. Trey Freeman scored 12 points and Darren White 10.
Campbell was picked 9th in the Big South pre-season poll of head coaches, but finished 11-7 in league play to earn the 3rd seed in the conference tournament.
Robbie Laing collected his 100th career coaching victory Feb. 7 at Coastal Carolina. Over the last four years, CU has an overall record of 62-60, and a league mark of 42-36. Campbell had never before won more than 61 games in a 4-year span as a Division I member (since 1977-78).
Big South freshman of the year, Trey Freeman leads all Big South freshmen in scoring (14.2), field goal % (.441), free throw % (.868) and assist-TO ratio (1.6). He has made 44 of his last 47 foul shots (.936).
Eric Griffin (69) has already broken the school record for blocked shots he set in 2011-12. The 1st-team all-conference pick ranks 6th in the nation in FG% (.614) and also leads the Big South in blocks (2.3).
Lorne Merthie became the 25th player in CU history (since 1961-62) to reach 1,000 career points during the Feb. 9 game vs. Winthrop.
Second-team all-league pick Darren White (521) has produced the 6th-highest scoring season of all CU players on the Division I level.
In both games against Winthrop this season, the Camels trailed by at least 7 in the second half. However, CU held Winthrop to a combined shooting percentage of 31.4 and just 9-of-44 threes (.205). By contrast, the Camels shot 50% from the field against the Eagles. Merthie made 7-12 (.583) threes and averaged 14 points against Winthrop. Griffin averaged 12.5 points, 8.5 boards and shot 68.8% (11-16) from the floor, while Marvelle Harris added 9.0 rebounds.
Campbell and Winthrop have met twice before in Big South Tournament play. The Camels defeated the Eagles 78-55 in the 1989 semifinal at Rock Hill. CU topped Winthrop 79-71 in the 1994 quarters at Charleston.
Fifth-year 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. Peele is the only coach in Big South history to lead two league schools to NCAA bids (UNCG in '96 and Winthrop in '08 and '10).
Winthrop has captured 9 of the previous 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 owns a 9-8 all-time record in Big South Conference tournament play and reached the Big South final 4 times ('87, '89, '92, '94) in 8 years during its previous stint in the league. In 17 years as a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference, CU went 2-12 in tournament action and reached the semis twice ('96, '06).