Seahawks lose final home game of the season in heartbreaking fashion

Charles Cox | Staff Writer

The thrill and emotion of the UNC Wilmington men’s basketball team’s senior night, coupled with Coach Buzz Peterson’s teal jacket, wasn’t quite enough, as the Seahawks lost a heartbreaker to William & Mary, 73-72 on Wednesday night at Trask Coliseum.

While it was an excellent game, the Hawks didn’t send out seniors Keith Rendleman and Matt Wilson quite like they wanted to.

“Sending out the seniors with a win was the main focus in our locker room,” said sophomore guard Freddie Jackson, who racked up six rebounds, six assists, and a career-high 16 points. “I’m disappointed in myself that we couldn’t send them out on the right note.”

The game was fast-paced and intense, as there were six ties and 16 lead changes. It was an insane game from the time it was all knotted at 24. William & Mary (13-15, 7-10) went on a 10-0 run to give themselves a 10 point lead with 4:53 left in the first half.

The Tribe would not score again in the half, however, as UNCW (10-19, 5-12) countered with their own 15-0 run, giving themselves a 39-34 halftime lead.

However, the Tribe would answer early in the 2nd half with another 10-0 run.

“Basketball is a game of runs,” said William & Mary coach Tony Shaver. “A month ago we don’t answer that (UNCW’s run). We stood our ground. Earlier in the year, we would have lost this game by 20.”

Rendleman’s first half production – 11 points, five rebounds and four blocks – was a big reason why the Hawks went into the half up 39-34. The Seahawks also knew William & Mary ranked 2nd in the conference in three-point percentage, and played excellent perimeter defense, holding the Pride to just 1-7 from long distance in the opening half. However, in the second half, the Pride got their shooters, Julian Boatner and Brandon Britt, whom finished with 11 and 17 points apiece, respectively, to the corners, where they shot 6-8 (75%) from deep.

“Boatner is playing great for us right now,” Shaver said. “He is really a key weapon for us and I’m really proud of him.”

Every time the Pride seemed to be pulling away, the Seahawks would come out of a timeout with clutch shots by Dixon, Jackson, or Rendleman. However, UNCW ran into an all-too-familiar problem once again with their free throw percentage, shooting 9-16 from the charity strike, while the Tribe shot 80% for the game.

“Free throws have been something that has been our Achilles heel,” Peterson said. “I don’t think point guards should miss free throws and Dixon has struggled.”

Two free throws with 16 seconds left gave William & Mary a six point advantage. Rendleman then hit a huge three-pointer with nine ticks left on the clock. After Marcus Thornton, whom finished with a team-leading 17 points along with Britt and Tim Rusthoven, missed a one-and-one, the Seahawks moved the ball to the corner for a game-tying three-pointer from Tanner Milson with 1.9 seconds remaining.

What happened next was truly bizarre.

The Tribe threw a full-court pass to a wide open Rusthoven underneath the basket. Chris Dixon came out of nowhere to contest the shot and after a controversial late call, Rusthoven headed to the line for two free throws with .4 ticks left.

After missing the first, he made the second. Rendleman’s shot didn’t go down from half court as the buzzer sounded. And just like that, it was all over. No fairy-tale ending.

“Tim missed the first free throw pretty handily,” Shaver said. “But to have the poise to step up there and make the second was wonderful.”

Rendleman’s last home game ended in a loss, but he recorded his 8th straight double-double, the 41st of his career, with 24 points and 11 rebounds. The senior finishes his Trask career currently the 5th leading scorer and the leading rebounder in UNCW men’s basketball history.

“I thought Keith had an outstanding game with another double-double,” Peterson said. “I’m disappointed we came up short. It would have been nice to get a win for them [Rendleman and Wilson] in Trask.”