Charleston trio thumps UNCW on senior night, 88-74

Seahawks still hunting for top-six CAA seed

Noah Thomas

Noah Thomas, Sports Editor

Things were not looking up for UNC Wilmington when Devontae Cacok went to the bench with four fouls, his team down 12 with five minutes remaining. It didn’t get better afterward, either, as the Seahawks could not recover and fell to College of Charleston, 88-74.

Cacok, who finished with his 20th double-double of the season (29 points, 17 rebounds), had managed to avoid fouling for most of the game before the 5:42 mark when he picked up his second. He picked up two more in the next 40 seconds, signaling the beginning of the end for UNCW (9-19, 6-10 CAA).

C.B. McGrath, in the final home game of his first year as head coach, sent his star junior to the bench to avoid him picking up a fifth foul out of frustration.

“I’m not really sure what happened,” Cacok said of the sequence that sent him to the bench. “The refs thought that was a foul. It could have went either way, but it definitely impacted the game for me. It is what it is at this point.”

The Holy Trinity

Charleston (23-6, 14-3) was led by trio Grant Riller (28 points), Jarrell Brantley (23) and Joe Chealey (15). It was the latest in a series of hard-fought battles between the CAA’s two port city schools.

Though a defensive team by trade, the Cougars ate their fill on Saturday in front of a heated crowd in Trask Coliseum. Their big three — all of whom could be considered CAA Player of the Year candidates — led a balanced attack the Seahawks were unable to overcome.

But despite that stellar offensive performance in which Charleston shot 70 percent from the floor in the second half, UNCW had a chance to make it a game in the final few minutes.

It all came down to Cacok’s exit to the bench, during which the Cougars extended a lead that was capped off by Brantley’s 3-pointer to create a 14-point deficit with 1:48 remaining.

“We were within striking distance, I thought, if we could make a couple stops and get a few baskets — it just didn’t work out that way,” McGrath said. “Since he picked up so many so quickly, I didn’t want him to get his fifth foul out of frustration.”

A hot crowd

UNCW fans showed out for senior night, packing the lower and upper levels of Trask and making as much noise as they had all season.

Despite the loss, it was a proper send-off for seniors Jordon Talley, Marcus Bryan and Nick Powell. Talley finished with 16 points, six assists and three steals.

“It means a lot,” Talley said. “I wish we could have gotten the win for them. It means a lot. Trask will be missed.”

McGrath said he was thankful for the fans and that his first year as UNCW’s head coach lived up to the hype.

“It’s unbelievable. I heard a lot about it and I was looking forward to being part of it,” he said.

“It did not disappoint.”

Up next

The Seahawks finish out the regular season with a pair of road games — first on Thursday at William & Mary, then at Drexel on Saturday.

The CAA Tournament will take place in Charleston, S.C., over the March 3-6 weekend in North Charleston Coliseum. UNCW will try to clinch a top-six seed in the tournament this week so as to avoid playing on the first day of the tournament.

For a photo gallery from tonight’s game, click here.