Cougars ground Seahawks in 67-66 thriller

Noah Thomas, Sports Editor

It came down to a pair of Chris Flemmings free throws.

Down two with .08 seconds remaining on the clock, UNC Wilmington’s headlining senior went to the line after being fouled by College of Charleston’s Cameron Johnson. He made his first attempt, received with much applause from the Trask Coliseum crowd.

The second attempt rimmed out, securing a 67-66 win for the Cougars that was earned every step of the way.

“I knew we would have a great opportunity to compete and play well,” said Charleston coach Earl Grant. “Our players stayed poised and we made enough plays to win the game.”

The Seahawks (20-4, 9-2 CAA) could not have asked for a better start against a Charleston team that lives and breathes a half court-style offense. They went on a 6-0 run from the opening whistle, looking as if UNCW would control the pace of play.

Grant’s team began to show the poise he spoke of afterward, clawing its way back into things and taking its first lead in the final 90 seconds of the first half. UNCW sophomore C.J. Bryce (21 points, five assists) hit a three in the closing moments to give the Seahawks a 30-28 halftime lead.

Both Charleston (18-6, 9-2) and the Seahawks continued back-and-forth, neck-in-neck in the second half, but it was missed opportunities in key areas that may have lost the game for UNCW well before the final buzzer sounded.

“If you had to point to one thing… we missed 11 free throws,” said UNCW coach Kevin Keatts. “If you make a few more of those, it gives you a different opportunity — and it had nothing to do with Chris’s free throw at the end.”

The Seahawks shot 12-of-23 from the free-throw line — an abysmal 51 percent. That mark was well below the team’s season average of 68 percent.

“One play doesn’t lose the game, it’s multiple plays that lose the game,” said Keatts.

Thursday’s game made back-to-back losses for UNCW. The last time the Seahawks dropped two in a row since losing two of their first three CAA games last season.

With the win, Charleston draws itself even with UNCW atop the CAA standings with seven games remaining before next month’s conference tournament; the Cougars split the regular-season series with the Seahawks with a chance for a third meeting during championship weekend.

“I told the guys ‘Don’t let this loss get you another loss,’” Keatts said. “With the way the schedule is, Thursday-Saturday, you gotta bounce back and play.”

UNCW will host Delaware on Saturday and mark the university’s annual Homecoming celebration. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.