College Basketball Roundup: UNC Asheville beats Campbell, wins Big South title

The Bulldogs will return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016

UNC Asheville guard Tajion Jones celebrates near his team’s bench after making a seocnd half 3-pointer during of the Bulldogs’ win Sunday in Big South Tournament championship game against Campbell in Charlotte. (Jacob Kupferman / AP Photo)

CHARLOTTE — Drew Pember had 29 points, Tajion Jones scored 16 in the final 7:35 and No. 1 seed UNC Asheville stormed back to beat seventh-seeded Campbell 77-73 on Sunday, winning the Big South Conference Tournament championship and advancing to the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time.

Ricky Clemons hit a jumper to give Campbell a 66-52 lead and then Jones took over. The senior guard scored 10 straight points for the Bulldogs (27-7) after Pember made two free throws to cut their deficit to 68-64 with 3:41 to go. Clemons and Jones traded 3-pointers, and Pember followed with a three-point play to get UNC Asheville within 71-70.

“He’s had more to do with the flipping of this program than I have,” UNC Asheville coach Mike Morrell said of Jones.

Clemons hit a jumper with 1:44 to play but the Fighting Camels would not score again. Pember, who has attempted and made more free throws than anyone else in the country, sank a pair. Clemons was fouled but missed both free throws and Jones buried a 3-pointer to put the Bulldogs on top 75-73 with 55 seconds left. The last time UNC Asheville had the lead the score was 13-11.

Pember, the Big South’s player of the year, hit 9 of 19 shots but just 1 of 6 from 3-point range. He made 10 of 12 foul shots. Jones sank 9 of 14 shots, including 5 of 8 from beyond the arc. They each grabbed eight rebounds.

“No one’s more deserving of that moment than Tai,” Pember said. “He was here when they won four games (in 2018-19). He helped me come here. He’s been clutch all year. And a lot of the times people think I’m going to get the ball; I want Tai to get the ball. He’s been phenomenal, and (it’s) just a testament to his hard work and what he’s been doing all year for us.”

Jay Pal scored a career-high 26 points to lead the Fighting Camels. The senior made 11 of 18 shots and grabbed 10 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the season. He added four assists and blocked two shots. Big South freshman of the year Anthony Dell’Orso scored 12 points — just two after halftime — and snagged seven rebounds. Clemons, a former walk-on now a senior, hit two 3-pointers and scored 17 before fouling out.

Pal had 16 points and eight rebounds by halftime to guide Campbell to a 38-35 lead at intermission.

The Fighting Camels (16-18) made their only trip to the Big Dance in 1992, losing to eventual champion Duke in the first round 82-56. Campbell is the sixth No. 7 seed to advance to the Big South title game. All six lost to the top seed.

UNC Asheville sports a 2-4 record in its four previous NCAA tourney appearances.

Big South Women’s Tournament

Williams scores 33, Gardner-Webb women win Big South title

CHARLOTTE — Jhessyka Williams scored 33 points, 20 in the second half, and top-seeded Gardner-Webb defeated No. 2 seed High Point 74-61 in the Big South Tournament championship game on Sunday night.

Gardner-Webb (29-4), the first team to go 18-0 in the Big South, extended its winning streak to 21 games. The Runnin’ Bulldogs will make their second NCAA Tournament appearance and their first since 2011.

Williams, the regular season Big South most outstanding player, made 12 of 19 shots and had 11 rebounds. She surpassed 2,000 career points when she hit a long two-pointer in the first quarter.

Layken Cox had 16 points and 15 rebounds for Gardner-Webb and Ki’Ari Cain added 14 points.

The Panthers scored the last six points of the third quarter, taking a 49-48 lead when Jenson Edwards beat the buzzer with a mid-range jumper. But the Panthers missed their first eight shots of the fourth quarter and by the time Williams wrapped up a personal 10-0 run with 5:10 remaining, the Runnin’ Bulldogs led 60-49. The Panthers went six minutes without scoring before Skylar Curran hit two free throws and seven minutes without a field goal before Edwards made a layup.

Edwards scored 18 points, Nakyah Terrell 14, and Curran 11 for High Point (17-14).

Both teams relied heavily on their starters. Not only were there a total of two bench points in the game, but only three players scored in the second half for Gardner-Webb until Lauren Bevis made two free throws in the final minute.

SoCon Tournament

Furman 83, Western Carolina 80

ASHEVILLE — Mike Bothwell scored 26 points and JP Pegues added 24 and hit a go-ahead free throw with 28 seconds remaining in overtime to lead Furman to an 83-80 victory over Western Carolina on Sunday, earning the Paladins a spot in the championship game of the Southern Conference Tournament.

Bothwell added three steals for the Paladins (26-7), who will play Chattanooga for the title on Monday. Pegues hit three 3-pointers and grabbed five rebounds. Jalen Slawson scored 15.

The Catamounts (18-15) were led by Vonterius Woolbright with 30 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. Tre Jackson added 22 points and Tyzhaun Claude totaled 15 points and 11 rebounds.

Furman led 45-30 at halftime. Woolbright’s layup with 40 seconds left in regulation gave Western Carolina the lead, but Bothwell made two free throws 12 seconds later to send the game to overtime tied at 72. Bothwell scored seven points in the extra period.

CAA Tournament

UNC Wilmington 73, Drexel 68

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Nick Farrar scored 19 points off the bench to lead UNC Wilmington past Drexel 73-68 in the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament quarterfinals on Sunday.

Farrar was 8-of-10 shooting and made 3 of 5 from distance for the Seahawks (23-9). Trazarien White scored 14 points and added eight rebounds. Jamarii Thomas had 11 points.

Justin Moore led the way for the Dragons (17-15) with 16 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals. Amari Williams added 13 points and seven rebounds for Drexel. Luke House also finished with 13 points.

Regular Season

UCF 84, East Carolina 58

ORLANDO, Fla. — Taylor Hendricks’ 25 points helped UCF defeat East Carolina 84-58 on Sunday.

Hendricks also added 10 rebounds for the Knights (17-13, 8-10 American Athletic Conference). Ithiel Horton scored 19 points while going 7 of 11 (5 for 8 from distance) and added five rebounds. CJ Kelly recorded 12 points.

Ezra Ausar finished with 14 points and two steals for the Pirates (15-16, 6-12). Brandon Johnson added 12 points and six rebounds for East Carolina. In addition, Jaden Walker finished with 11 points and six rebounds.