Just 4.8 seconds remained when Chris Clemons started charging forward from his own backcourt. His Campbell Fighting Camels trailed Radford on the road in the Dedmon Center by two points.
As it turned out, that was enough time for Clemons to get into shooting range for a go-ahead 3-pointer. After crossing half-court, the 5-foot-9 senior cut to his right to avoid two reaching defenders. He rose up near the Radford logo and fired. His right hand hung in the air as his shot swished through the hoop at the same time the buzzer was sounding.
Clemons scored 39 points Wednesday night to give the Camels a 68-67 win at Radford. It was the first Big South loss of the season for the Highlanders. Clemons also added six rebounds, an assist and a steal.
FIGHTING CAMELS: Meet the nation's leading returning scorer, Chris Clemons
Radford knows this feeling all too well. Clemons beat the Highlanders with a buzzer-beater last year, too. That shot came in Clemons’ house, the home of the Camels in Buies Creek, North Carolina. He had a bit more time on that attempt, and walked the ball up the floor before flushing a shot in defender’s grill with 0.3 seconds left.
Clemons leads all NCAA Division I scorers this year with 28.8 points per-game. He’s closing in on the 3,000-point mark for his collegiate career and needs just 164 points to become the ninth player in the history of Division I men's college basketball to pass that mark. In the first eight minutes of playing time against Radford, he passed Kevin Bradshaw and Allan Houston on the NCAA's all-time scoring list for 16th all-time.
And, with a few more performances like Wednesday night’s, he could boost his per-game scoring average past 30 points, which would be another historic achievement for the once under-recruited guard from Raleigh, North Carolina. Since 1986, when the NCAA standardized the three-pointer, less than 15 players have averaged more than 30 points per-game in a single season.
Clemons has turned into a scoring machine since arriving in Buies Creek. The Camels have regularly hosted NBA scouts this season as teams continue to evaluate what Clemons could be in the professional ranks. In the past two off-seasons, he’s tested the NBA Draft waters, but opted to return to school each time.
This season, in addition to his high-scoring total, Clemons is averaging 5.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. Clemons is also making 38.3 percent of his shots from behind the arc and 82.6 of his attempts from the free throw line, despite his unorthodox style of standing a foot behind the charity stripe and far to the right.
Chris Clemons 🗣 pic.twitter.com/ln5gJNqE3T— Campbell Basketball (@GoCamelsMBB) January 31, 2019
While buzzer-beaters and scoring in bunches seem to come easy to Clemons, what hasn’t has been is trying to get his Camels into the NCAA tournament. Campbell hasn’t been to the Big Dance since 1992. Clemons wasn’t even born yet.
"It's the No. 1 team," Clemons said. "If you want to be No. 1, you have to beat No. 1. That was our goal coming in here, and we accomplished it."
Now with a 5-2 record in conference play, Campbell is third in the Big South.
Just as they proved Wednesday night at Radford, as long as Clemons is on their side, the Fighting Camels always have a fighting chance to win any game.
Mitchell Northam is a graduate of Salisbury University. His work has been featured at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Orlando Sentinel, SB Nation, FanSided, USA Today and the Delmarva Daily Times. He grew up on Maryland's Eastern Shore and is now based in Durham, N.C.