ASHEVILLE, N.C. (www.BigSouthSports.com), - Reggie Middleton tallied a game-high 25 points to lead No. 6 Winthrop over No. 3 Campbell 71-55 in the quarterfinals of the 2012 Advance Auto Parts Big South Men's Basketball Championship Wednesday afternoon at Kimmel Arena.
Winthrop trailed only once and led by as many as 19 in the second half, when they held Campbell to 36 percent shooting. The Fighting Camels were paced by 15 points from Darren White but shot just 42 percent for the game and turned it over 16 times.
Middleton compiled his 25 markers on an efficient 7-of-13 shooting, highlighted by a 5-of-10 mark from three-point range. Andre Jones chipped in 14 for Winthrop, as the senior guard combination teamed to go 9-of-19 from deep en route to 39 points.
Winthrop set the tone early in the second half, as Jones and Middleton sailed home threes from the left side to up the advantage to 41-26 at the 18:15 mark. The Eagles continued to maintain a double-digit cushion going forward and surged ahead 52-36 when Jones grabbed a long offensive rebound and drilled a trey from the top of the right arc with 12:31 remaining in the contest.
The lead would swell to as many as 19 moments later, as Jones deferred to his fellow marksman Middleton, who swished another from beyond the three-point arc for a 57-38 Winthrop cushion.
Campbell would not go down easily, responding with a 9-0 run to close within ten on a Lorne Merthie three-ball from the left side. White pumped in another triple several possession later to bring the Fighting Camels deficit down to 59-50 with 4:09 left, but the Eagles were too much down the stretch as they closed on a 12-6 spurt. Middleton was at the center of the action once more, scoring six points himself and finding Morgan for a layup during the sequence.
Campbell's Trey Freeman got the scoring started in the first half, swishing a baseline jumper over a Winthrop defender for a 2-0 lead. The Eagles scored 12 of the next 17 points to move in front by five, though, on a Matt Morgan free throw. Amir Celestin then came off the bench to provide instant offense for the Fighting Camels, driving for a layup before drilling a three-pointer to knot the tally at 12 apiece with 13:09 remaining in the first half.
Winthrop quickly broke the tie by scoring on four its next five possessions to move in front, 20-12. Three different players scoring during the stretch, which Morgan completed with a jumper off a pretty feed from Joab Jerome.
The back and forth nature of the opening stanza continued, however, as Campbell answered back with six straight markers, making the score 20-18 at the 7:50 mark. Buoyed by three treys, Winthrop seized control with a 16-3 run. Reggie Middleton buried the first from deep on the left wing, while Andre Jones connected on two in a row to give the Eagles a 34-21 advantage with 1:31 left until intermission. Andrew Ryan responded with a triple for the Fighting Camels, who tallied five of the final six points of the stanza to enter halftime trailing, 35-26.
Middleton hit three triples total in the first half and led Winthrop with 11 points as it shot 45 percent (13-of-29) from the field. Campbell shot 50 percent (9-of-18) from the floor, but committed nine turnovers and attempted nine fewer shots than Winthrop. The Eagles also had their way on the glass, out-rebounding the Fighting Camels 17-11 en route to enjoying an 11-0 advantage in second chance points. They would finish the afternoon with a 16-3 margin in that category, as well as a 21-10 advantage in points off turnovers.
With the victory, Winthrop advances to play No. 7 VMI in the semifinals Thursday at 6 p.m. The teams split the regular season series, with each side winning on its home court.
Winthrop Head Coach Randy Peele
"First of all I want to say I'm really proud of my team, that was a gutsy win. We got control in the first half and we pushed it up by 12. The thing that we've preached all year long is, when you get to that final game, you've got to defend, you've got to rebound, you've got to take care of the ball. Campbell's got a really talented team and we were able to hold them to 55 points."
Campbell Head Coach Robbie Laing
"Early in the game we turned it over and threw it away regularly. Middleton drained deep treys and got out rebounded on the offensive glass as they were more tenacious and physical than us. We continued to turn the ball over in the second half and left ourselves with a lot of empty trips to our end of the court. The tenacity that Winthrop played with and the way the controlled the pace at the end of the contest won them the game."