The nation’s leading scorer came to town on Saturday, and the University of Miami basketball team was ready.
Campbell University point guard Chris Clemons, who was averaging 31 points per game, missed his first six shots, was briefly benched, and had scored only nine points with three minutes to go as the Hurricanes defeated the Camels 73-62 in their final non-conference game.
His 19 points were a season low. Clemons has scored in double figures in 95 games in a row, the longest among all active players and fourth-best in NCAA Division I history.
Clemons is 5-9 and his matchup against 5-7 Miami guard Chris Lykes was the most compelling storyline of the afternoon. Lykes, well aware of the buzz surrounding Clemons, was clearly motivated to win the Battle of the Chrises.
Lykes finished the game with 21 points on 7-of-12 shooting. Clemons, meanwhile, went 7-of-21 and was 2-of-10 from beyond the arc. Ten of his 19 points came in the final three minutes.
“I’m very pleased with the defensive effort from Chris Lykes and Zach Johnson on Chris Clemons,” said UM coach Jim Larranaga. “Clemons is considered one of the best small guards in the country, and Chris Lykes enjoys a good challenge. Zach Johnson was highly motivated to guard him as well.”
Campbell coach Kevin McGeehan said of the Hurricanes: “They did a really good job making it hard on Chris. He probably got a little bit anxious, was sped up to try to do too much early. Overall not his best day...when you’re the leading scorer in the country, the scouting report is all about you, all the guys are keyed in on you.”
Lykes said while he tried not to make it a personal battle, he was fired up.
“Obviously we know he’s a great player, a high-octane player,” Lykes said. “I always like a challenge. Basketball has been a challenge for me my whole life.”
The Camels had a long scoring drought early in the game, missing 11 of their first 12 shots to allow the Hurricanes to open up a 14-point lead. Miami led 37-26 at the half and was ahead by 15 with nine minutes to go.
Zach Johnson came off the bench for UM, made five of his six three-point attempts, and scored a game-high 22 points. Anthony Lawrence added 11 points and seven rebounds. D.J. Vasiljevic chipped in 10.
Miami limited Campbell to 36 percent shooting for the game and 19 percent from three-point range. The Hurricanes shot 55 percent and 50 percent from the perimeter.
The win gave the Hurricanes (8-4) a boost of confidence heading into the Atlantic Coast Conference season, which opens Thursday night with a home game against 20th ranked North Carolina State (12-1). The Wolfpack beat its non-conference opponents by an average of 35.8 points, and this is the first NC State team to be ranked in the Top 25 in five years.
Miami forward Dewan Hernandez remained on the bench Saturday for the 12th game in a row as he awaits clearance from the NCAA and the university. They are reviewing his eligibility.
The 24th-ranked UM women’s basketball team (12-2) wraps up the Miami Holiday Classic at 4 p.m. Sunday with a game against Central Michigan (8-3). The Chippewas were 30-5 and 17-1 in the MAC last season. The Hurricanes are coming off a 103-54 win over Florida A&M and a 101-74 win over Alabama – the first time in school history the Canes reach 100 points in back-to-back games.
Tulane plays Florida A&M in the 2 p.m. game.