UNCW Press Release
El Paso, Texas – Freshman guard RJ Cole exploded for 42 points – the most ever by a Seahawk opponent – and keyed a second-half rally to help Howard slip past UNCW, 80-75, in the consolation game of the 56th WestStar Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational Tournament on Friday at the Don Haskins Center.
The Bison of the Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference (MEAC) snapped a two-game losing streak and moved to 3-12 on the season. Howard split a pair of games in the four-team tournament after falling to host UTEP, 69-56, in Thursday's nightcap.
The Seahawks, who have lost eight in a row, break for the Christmas holiday and carry a 2-9 mark into their final non-conference game of the season next Thursday, Dec. 28, vs. NCAA Division III Greensboro College at Trask Coliseum.
"We had opportunities to secure the win and we didn't," said UNCW Head Coach C.B. McGrath. "We had some late turnovers that really cost us, and we missed some free throws.
"Their two guys had a great game. We knew they were going to be the focal point of their offense. We tried to double Cole every time he came off a ball screen, but he still made some tough shots. It was just a heckuva effort by them. They just rose up and made the big plays, and we did not."
The crafty Cole finished 13-of-22 from the field, 5-of-8 behind the arc and 11-of-13 at the free throw line to score the second most points ever in the Sun Bowl event. The 42 points was second only to Jackson State's Trey Johnson, who bucketed 46 points vs. host UTEP in 2006.
Cole and backcourt mate Charles Williams combined for 72 of Howard's 80 points. Williams poured in 18 in the first half and wound up with 30 points for the Bison, who shot 50 percent from the field. Both players posted career highs for Howard.
Seahawk junior forward Devontae Cacok closed with 19 points and 17 rebounds for his eighth double-double of the season. Redshirt sophomore guard Ty Taylor collected 14 points, freshman guard Jeff Gary contributed a career-high 13 and senior guard Jordon Talley had 10 points and six assists in a losing cause.
Cole erupted for 32 of his 42 points in the second half as the Bison rallied from 10 points down with just over six minutes remaining.
The Seahawks appeared to be in control late in the second half when Talley banged in a three-pointer from the top of the key at the 6:42 mark for a 70-60 margin.
But Williams answered with a conventional three-point play and Cole scored 14 of his total the rest of the way as the Bison outscored the stunned Seahawks, 20-5, down the stretch to secure the win.
UNCW managed just five points over the final six minutes, missing eight of 10 field goal attempts during the crucial stretch as the Bison rode Cole's performance to their first win away from Burr Gymnasium this season.
The Seahawks led throughout the first half and took a 40-32 advantage into the break after Cacok and Taylor scored 10 points each in the opening period. Eight different players scored for UNCW in the first stanza.
After trading buckets in the early going, UNCW opened up a 25-19 edge on a layup by Jaylen Fornes at 6:47 before Williams countered with a pair of free throws and triple to narrow the deficit to 25-24 at the 5:52 mark.
The Seahawks still led, 28-26, when Cacok keyed an 8-0 spurt that extended the margin to 10 points, 36-26, their largest lead of the first half.
Williams stayed hot, however, and his trifecta in the right corner cut the lead to 36-32 with just over a minute left. Williams went 6-of-11 from the field and led all scorers with 18 points in the first half.
Cacok converted both ends of a bonus situation and then connected on a baby hook with two ticks left to give the Seahawks a 40-32 edge at intermission.
GAME NOTES: The Seahawks faced teams with the nickname "Bison" for the second straight night after taking on North Dakota State on Thursday…UNCW stands 1-3 in the brief series with Howard…The Seahawks are18-21 lifetime against MEAC competition…UNCW won the rebounding battle, 37-34…The Seahawks finished with 18 turnovers, including 11 in the second half…Howard only had five assists on 26 baskets…UNCW ripped down 16 offensive rebounds…The Seahawks went 8-of-25 from deep…Three players fouled out for the Bison…Coach C.B. McGrath used only his third different starting lineup of the season…Seven opposing players have scored more than 30 points vs. UNCW this year…Devontae Cacok has pulled down 17 rebounds four times in 2017-18…Howard shot 57.7 percent from the field in the second half in the late comeback...Cole's 42 points surpassed the previous high of 37 points scored by an opposing player.