Wade, Lancers come alive in second half as Longwood tops Campbell, 78-69

longwood athleticsRiding a career-high 22 points from junior guard DeShaun Wade, Longwood (3-11, 2-6 Big South) outscored Campbell 50-33 after halftime to overcome a 12-point deficit and pull away to a 78-69 win Sunday evening at Willett Hall.

In only his fifth game back in the starting lineup after missing his first six games of the year with an injury, Wade was nearly perfect from the field Sunday, hitting 8-of-10 field goals and 5-of-7 three-pointers in the highest scoring night of his collegiate career. His three-pointer with 16:30 in the second half tied the game at 40-40 and erased Campbell’s last lead of the game, and he followed with back-to-back treys in the final 2:22 to keep the Lancers ahead by multiple possessions.

“The thing we’ve really been focused on is staying the course,” said Longwood head coach Griff Aldrich. “Too often throughout this season we’ve had segments where we’d have breakdowns defensively, offensively, whatever it may be. Tonight by no means did we play perfect or close to it, but at the same time I thought mentally there was a real resolve to at least stay focused, execute and play Longwood basketball.”

Playing with the closest semblance of a full lineup they have had all season, the Lancers had four players score in double figures, including Wade, fellow junior guard Juan Munoz (16 points), freshman guard Justin Hill (14) and sophomore forward Leslie Nkereuwem (11). Munoz added six assists – including on four of Wade’s five treys – and also got in on the second-half rally with 12 points after halftime.

Sunday’s game was only the fourth all season that Longwood had Wade, Nkereuwem and Heru Bligen active at the same time, and those three came through in a big way in the final 10 minutes by combining for 17 of Longwood’s final 28 points.

Their combined contributions helped the Lancers shake off early shooting woes in the first half and put together their most efficient performances of the season after halftime, sinking 17-of-25 (.680) shots from the floor and 6-of-9 from three-point range after the break. That led to a 13-0 run beginning at the 17:09 mark in the second half, which erased Campbell’s 36-28 halftime lead and put the Lancers ahead for good.

“It was a great half. The guys really responded. I’m extremely proud of them and how they battled back,” Aldrich said. “But Give Campbell credit. They made shot after shot after shot after shot. I thought they were pretty well-guarded. I thought we needed to pick up our intensity a little bit to make it more difficult, but they’re making tough shots. We want people to shoot 17-footers, and they were taking them and making them.

“But I thought overall we did a really good job mentally of staying the course and running our offense. Other than the first five minutes where we took some very bad threes, I thought we did a really good job of staying focused on the offensive end.”

Key to that turnaround along with Wade was Munoz, who played a team-high 33 minutes and directed Longwood to its highest shooting percentage of the season at .529 (27-of-51). Along with his 16 points, his six assists led to 17 points and five of the Lancers’ nine three-pointers. He hit two of those treys himself and all four free throws while also committing just two turnovers.

“I thought Juan had a great series against Campbell,” Aldrich said. “So much has been asked of him. He starts the season expecting a lineup involving Heru and DeShaun, Justin and Jermaine Drewey, and three of those guys aren’t out there. All of a sudden philosophically he has to do a lot of things. There’s a level of pressure for him to try to carry the team a little bit because he didn’t have a supporting cast. That’s been really hard, and then now as guys have slowly integrated back into the lineup being healthy, it’s hard.

“Now Juan’s had to adjust again and go ‘Ok, now people are back.’ The past two games are the two best games he’s had. We talked to him and said Juan, your job is just to lead this team, run the offense and execute the offense and defense. Do that to the best of your ability. I think he’s done a phenomenal job in these two games against Campbell. He looked like a warrior out there tonight.”

Along with the offensive turnaround sparked by Munoz and Wade Sunday, Longwood bounced back defensively as well to hold Campbell’s efficient Princeton-style system to just .400 (10-of-25) shooting after halftime. That was a drastic decline from the Fighting Camels’ first half in which they opened the game nearly perfect from the field, hitting 13 of their first 16 field goals en route to a lead as large as 12 points.

Cedric Henderson and Jordan Whitfield, who just one night earlier combined for 39 points in Campbell’s 64-58 opening-game win, once again led the way with a combined 40 Sunday. Whitfield contributed 23 of those and Henderson 17, but the Lancers limited the rest of Campbell’s lineup to 13 made field goals and 29 points.

Now winners of two of their past three games in Willett Hall, the Lancers will get a three-day break before hitting the road once again for another Big South series. This time it will be against the premier team of this year’s Big South cohort in preseason favorite and currently unbeaten Winthrop (11-0, 8-0 Big South) this Thursday and Friday, Jan. 14-15, in Rock Hill, S.C.


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