RADFORD — The nation’s leading scorer basically did it by himself.
Campbell guard Chris Clemons knocked off the Big South-leading Radford with a 3-pointer at the buzzer Wednesday to hand the Highlanders a 68-67 defeat — their first conference loss.
Clemons scored 39 points (11 of 22) with eight 3-pointers.
It was an unwanted deja vu experience for a Raford team that lost to Campbell last year in similar fashion, with Clemons knocking down a tie-breaking 3-pointer at the buzzer in overtime.
“It was a little different last year, I think they had an inbounds [pass] and he walked it up and able to walk into a shot,” Radford coach Mike Jones said. “This game it was helter-skelter. He was full speed, and we tried to send a guy at him, and he still made it.”
Radford (15-7, 7-1 Big South) had multiple opportunities to close out the game from the free-throw line, up 67-60 with a minute to go. The Highlanders missed the front ends of one-and-one opportunities twice, and Travis Fields missed two free throws that could have put the game out of reach in the final seconds.
Campbell forward Isaac Chatman grabbed a rebound off Fields’ second miss with less than seven seconds to go. He immediately found Clemons, who quickly dribbled up the court and squared up from the top of the key, about three steps behind the 3-point line.
“We’re in trouble,” Jones said, of his reaction to the play unfolding.
Clemons’ shot hit nothing but net.
The officials went to replay before confirming the senior guard got the shot off before the buzzer. The loss ended Radford’s eight-game win streak and 12-game win streak at the Dedmon Center.
Jones admitted after the game that given a do-over, he would have told his team to foul Clemons and send him to the line. The plan was to foul someone if Fields had connected on one of his two free throws.
“It’s very unconventional to foul up two and send them to the line to make two, but in hindsight, if I’m in that situation again, I’d probably foul him, Jones said.
Clemons came into the game averaging 28.3 points per game. He had a relatively quiet 11-point first half, but came out of halftime with three 3-pointers in less than three minutes.
Radford responded with a 23-3 run to take a 54-39 lead. Senior forward Ed Polite Jr. kicked off the run with a pair of three-point plays at the basket. The Highlanders had more 3-pointers during the five-minute stretch (four) than they had in the entire first half (two).
The Highlanders looked like they would close the game out with Campbell (12-9, 5-2 Big South) struggling on the offensive end — the Camels shot 38 percent as a team — but Clemons found a way.
“Will power, he has an indomitable will,” Jones said. “...There’s certain players that just have that .”
Polite grabbed his first rebound with 16:26 to go in the first half, drawing a standing ovation from the Highlanders bench. It was Polite’s 1,000th career rebound. He is only the fourth player in Big South history to reach the milestone.
Polite has a chance this season at becoming the program’s all-time leading rebounder . He finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds, leaving him 54 behind Javonte Green, who had 1,064 career boards.