Campbell holds on to beat Hartford

Campbell players stand for the anthem prior to their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium (photo by Shawn Krest)

DURHAM — Campbell wiped out an early 10-point deficit to win a back-and-forth game with Hartford, 68-67, at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium on Friday afternoon.

The win moved the Camels to 2-0 on the season. Campbell faces Duke, who is hosting the Veteran’s Day Weekend Showcase event, on Saturday. Hartford, which fell to 0-2, will face Army.

“I don’t think we played our best game, but I’m pleased we found a way to win it,” Campbell coach Kevin McGeehan said.

McGeehan praised the Camels’ toughness in the second half as the teams exchanged the lead eight times and tied the game four times.

Five Camels scored in double figures, led by Ricky Clemons, whose 12 points included an acrobatic, driving layup to give Campbell a four-point lead with 58 seconds left. Clemons also led Campbell with six rebounds and four assists.

Hartford responded with a 3-pointer 12 seconds later to cut the margin to one. Hartford was 13 of 26 from three on the day, hitting one more shot from outside the arc than inside, where the Hawks were 12 of 28.

Jordan Whitfield missed a jumper, giving Hartford one last shot to win with 14 seconds left. Campbell had three fouls to give and used them to run 10 seconds off the clock. The Camels were then able to cut off the path to the basket and Hartford couldn’t get a shot off before time expired. A 3-pointer shot just after the buzzer went in, but the Camels survived the near-miss.

“I think time will tell how valuable this one is,” McGeehan said. “Our exhibitions and scrimmages (and opening game) were against non-Division I teams, so we needed to feel it a little bit.”

Campbell struggled from outside, hitting just 4 of 17 from three, but the Camels were able to grind out the win, dominating Hartford in the paint 40-24 as well as 10-2 on second-chance points.

“It was uncharacteristic of us to have an eight-assist game,” McGeehan said. “Usually we’re upward of 17, 18 assists on 28 field goals. But four turnovers is incredible. That’s a good stat. I’ll take it. I think the shooting will come. I don’t think we got great looks at threes in the first half.”

The game was the first played at Cameron that didn’t involve Duke in more than 10 years when Elon played a pair of Preseason NIT games in the arena in 2009. Campbell will get a chance to play the building’s usual tenant on Saturday evening.

“I’m sure Cameron feels a little different when it’s packed,” McGeehan said. “I’m sure tonight, watching, and tomorrow, playing, it’ll be a very different feel. … It’s going to feel quite different when the students are breathing down our necks. We all watch on TV. We all know.”