Charleston Southern held Campbell to 39 percent second half shooting but a hot stretch of shooting late in the first half was enough to lead the Fighting Camels over the Bucs, 65-57, at Gore Arena on Wednesday night.
CSU (9-11, 3-4 BSC) led by five points at the 10:18 mark of the first half and held Campbell to 2-of-12 field goals and 1-of-6 from three in the early going. Campbell (11-11, 5-2 BSC) connected on 11 of its next 12 shots, though, including six straight threes, to take control. The Fighting Camels led 38-29 at halftime and enjoyed an advantage as large as 13 before holding off a valiant fight from the Bucs.
CSU senior Matt Kennedy scored a game-high 20 points, his fourth 20+ point effort of the season. The Bucs struggled offensively throughout the night, however, shooting 33 percent overall while making only 6-of-29 from beyond the arc. Junior Paul Gombwer was extremely active as he notched a career-high 16 rebounds, highlighted by seven on the offensive side. CSU was playing without junior guard Arlon Harper due to injury. Fellow junior Saah Nimley came off the bench but was limited to seven first half minutes due to injury as well.
Campbell placed four players in double figures, paced by 14 points apiece from Reco McCarter and Darius Leonard. McCarter added eight assists, four rebounds, three blocks and two steals as the Fighting Camels kept possession of first place in the Big South's North Division.
"Congratulations to Campbell because they played well and Kevin (McGeehan) has really done a great job with that team," CSU head coach Barclay Radebaugh said. "I thought we took some steps forward defensively outside of a six or seven-minute stretch, but that hurt us and we didn't execute well enough offensively to win."
Both defenses controlled play early on in a methodically played first half. CSU senior center Alhaji Fullahscored CSU's first four points of the game with a layup and a jump hook on the baseline. He added a right-handed hook in the middle of the lane to stake the Bucs to a 13-8 lead with 10:18 left in the first half.
Campbell's Leek Leek buried a three-pointer two possesions later, starting a stretch of ten straight made field goals for the Fighting Camels. Leek's trey started a 16-2 run, as he added another triple and Luke Moyer sailed through two during the critical juncture. McCarter finished the spurt with a layup off a CSU turnover, giving Campbell a 24-15 lead with 5:58 remaining.
Kennedy sparked the Bucs later in the half after starting 0-for-3 from the field, as he knocked down a three and converted an old-fashioned three-point play to make the score 29-24 with 3:41 left until intermission. Another Kennedy drive had the Bucs within six late in the stanza, but Leonard swished through a corner three to give Campbell a 38-29 halftime cushion.
Campbell then scored six of the first eight points of the second half to push its lead to 13 with 17:41 remaining. CSU was able to keep the deficit manageable, and received some much needed scoring punch off the bench from senior Mitchell Deter. Deter drilled a three from the right wing to pull CSU within 46-40 at the 13:09 mark, and added two more triples to tie a career-high with nine points.
The Fighting Camels were able to build their lead back to 13 on a McCarter baseline jumer with 5:51 left, before the Bucs made their final push with a quick 6-0 spurt. Deter canned his second trey to ignite the mini-run, before a free throw by Sheldon Strickland and a pull-up jumper by Kennedy. Leonard connected on a triple from the right corner with 2:26 remaining to end the charge and help seal the win for Campbell.
CSU returns home Saturday to host Liberty. Tipoff at the Buc Dome is slated for 5:30 p.m. The game will be televised live on ESPN3.