UNC Asheville rallies to capture Big South title, NCAA streak

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Drew Pember scored 29 points, Tajion Jones scored 16 in the final 7:35 and No. 1 seed UNC Asheville beat seventh-seeded Campbell 77-73 on Sunday to win the Big South Conference championship and advance to its fifth straight NCAA Tournament appearance.

Ricky Clemons hit a jumper to give Campbell a 66-52 lead, 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 left. Clemons and Jones traded 3-pointers, and Pember made a three-point play to pull UNC Asheville within 71-70.

Clemons hit a jumper with 1:44 left, but the Fighting Camels didn’t score again. Pember, who attempted and made more free throws than anyone in the country, sank a pair. Clemons was fouled but missed both free throws, and Jones buried a 3-pointer to put the Bulldogs up 75-73 with 55 seconds left. Last time out, UNC Asheville was up 13-11.

Pember, the Big South Player of the Year, hit 9 of 19 shots but just 1 of 6 from 3-point range. He made 10 of 12 shots. Jones sank 9 of 14 shots, including 5 of 8 from beyond the arc. They each had eight rebounds. Fletcher Abi scored 11 goals with three shots from distance.

Jay Pal led the Battle Camels with 26 points. The senior made 11 of 18 shots and had 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 grabbed seven rebounds. Clemons, a former walk-on now a senior, scored 17 with two 3-pointers.

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

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

UNC Asheville posted a 2-4 record in its previous four NCAA Tournament appearances.

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