Talley’s big night leads Seahawks past Cougars, 65-59

Noah Thomas, Sports Editor

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Jordan Talley’s miracle three-point shot in the final minutes swung momentum towards the UNC Wilmington Seahawks, deflating an energized crowd inside College of Charleston’s TD Arena.

The shot put the Seahawks up 10, their biggest lead in Thursday’s 65-59 win over the Cougars.

“We knew it was going to be a dog fight,” Talley said. “Every time we play College of Charleston it’s a dog fight. We just knew the better defensive team was going to win.”

UNCW (18-2, 7-0 CAA) remains unbeaten with its seventh-straight win over Charleston in what acted as a first-place game.

It didn’t come easy. The Seahawks shot an abysmal 35.6 percent from the floor (21-of-59), including 6-of-27 from three-point range.

Charleston (15-5, 6-1) and its half-court offense, contrasting directly with its opponent’s up-tempo philosophy, forced everything in which UNCW specializes to become more difficult to accomplish. Things like forcing turnovers and scoring quickly took a backseat in the Seahawk game plan.

Ironically, what finally broke one of the NCAA’s top-10 defenses was Talley’s three-pointer. The junior guard led all scorers with 17 points, with 12 coming from the free-throw line.

He found himself at the charity stripe more often down the stretch. Hitting 12-of-16 free throws, Talley clinched the game for his team in the closing seconds.

“(Talley) was great,” said UNCW coach Kevin Keatts, who has yet to lose to Charleston during his tenure as Wilmington’s head coach. “He was able to be the guard that came off the bench and gave us a lift, and I thought him going to the free-throw line was great… He didn’t always get the calls, but he stuck with it.”

With the nation’s most accurate shooter Devontae Cacok in foul trouble for much of the game, it was up to UNCW’s guards to react on the boards. C.J. Bryce (13 points, 10 rebounds) and Chris Flemmings (11 points, 10 rebounds) both finished with double-doubles as a result.

2016 CAA Freshman of the Year Jarrell Brantley (12 points, six rebounds) enjoyed an early advantage when guarded by Flemmings. Foul trouble kept him on the bench, however, and the sophomore fouled out with six minutes remaining.

With the Cougars’ best player gone, it opened up an opportunity for UNCW to put the game away.

“Brantley’s a good player,” Keatts said. “Any time you lose one of your main guys on the court, it hurts your team, and I think it hurt those guys.”

The Seahawks will return to Trask Coliseum on Saturday, tipping at 4 p.m. vs. Drexel in the two programs’ final meeting of the season. UNCW beat the Dragons on the road when they went to Philadelphia Jan. 5.