WILMINGTON, NC (UNCW News Release) - BOSTON, Massachusetts – Redshirt sophomore guard Ty Taylor buried a game-tying three-pointer as time expired in regulation, but Northeastern rode the back of junior transfer Vasa Pusica to a 107-100 overtime victory over visiting UNCW in a Colonial Athletic Association men's basketball matinee early Saturday at Matthews Arena.
The Huskies kept pace with the CAA's top-tier teams by hiking their record to 15-9 overall and 8-4 in the circuit. The Seahawks fell to 7-17 and 4-8 after tackling their fifth overtime game in C.B. McGrath's first season with the club.
Saturday's contest was a replica of the game played between the two teams back on Jan. 13 in Wilmington. The Huskies survived a second-half rally by the Seahawks to pull out an 81-77 decision 21 days ago and repeated the script by outscoring UNCW, 18-11, in the extra session on Saturday to sweep the regular season series from the Seahawks for the first time since 2011.
"I was proud of our execution and proud of our effort tonight," said McGrath, whose team wraps up a three-game road trip on Thursday at James Madison. "It might hurt more because we gave so much effort, but it feels a lot different than Thursday night, that's for sure. The effort and their focus was where we needed it to be. This hurts because I'm disappointed that we couldn't come out on top after what they did.
"Our guys kept battling. We got all over the boards in the second half and stayed active. We just didn't make the plays in overtime. They made the plays they had to. It didn't work out, but I was proud of their effort."
Taylor, a transfer from Wichita State, led all scorers in the contest with a career-high 27 points on 10-of-23 from the floor, including 5-of-10 from long distance. Senior point guard Jordon Talley came off the bench to chip in 20 points, junior forward Devontae Cacok contributed a double-double of 18 points and 17 rebounds – his 17th of the season and 30th of his career - and sophomore guard Jaylen Fornes finished with 10.
Pusica, a junior transfer from San Diego, scored 23 of his team-high 24 points in the second half and overtime to spark the Huskies. Freshman forward Tomas Murphy pumped in a career-best 21 points, junior center Anthony Green scored 16 points and redshirt sophomore guard Donnell Gresham, Jr. wound up with 10.
The Huskies trailed, 40-35, at halftime and shot 59.4 percent after the break to build a 13 point lead with 10 minutes left before the Seahawks stormed back.
Trailing 78-68 after a Murphy free throw with 6:12 left in regulation, the Seahawks reeled off eight straight points and finally pulled even at 78-all on a pair of free throws by freshman guard Jeff Gary with 2:48 remaining.
The game was still knotted at 86 points apiece when the crafty Pusica scored in the lane and Northeastern then padded its lead to 89-86 with 2.7 seconds left on two free throws by Gresham, setting up Taylor's heroics.
"It was a play that we work on in practice," McGrath said of Taylor's banked three-pointer at the buzzer. "We executed what we wanted and luckily it went in. It takes a lot of pieces to put together to go full court in 2.7 seconds. It takes a lot of guys to run that to perfection for it to work."
After the two teams traded baskets in overtime, the Huskies gained control on two free throws by Pusica and two more charity tosses by Murphy. The Huskies went 10-for-13 at the foul line in the extra session to seal the victory and improve to 3-0 in overtime all-time vs. UNCW.
After a sluggish start from the floor, the Seahawks heated up and led by as many as 13 points in the first half until the Huskies rallied over the last five minutes to close the gap to five points, 40-35, at intermission.
With Northeastern converting just 2-of-11 shots over the first six minutes, the Seahawks seized control in the opening period. UNCW erupted for nine unanswered points and held the Huskies without a field goal over a 5:46 stretch to build a 16-6 advantage at the second media time out.
Talley's three-pointer with 12:20 left in the first half gave UNCW a 10-point margin and the Seahawks extended the lead to 32-19 on a baby hook by Cacok with 6:41 left in the half.
Cacok, however, picked up three fouls in just 28 seconds, including his third on a technical foul with 4:07 left, and the Huskies capitalized. Northeastern finished the half strong and closed the gap to 40-35 on a Green tip-in with 10 seconds to go
GAME NOTES: Northeastern evened the 24-game series with UNCW at 12 wins apiece…The Huskies…The Huskies stand 7-4 against the Seahawks at Matthews Arena…The two teams combined for just 12 turnovers in the contest…UNCW outrebounded NU, 46-44…The Huskies scored 54 points in the paint and had 37 bench points…UNCW led for 21:46 and NU led for 17:43…Freshman Jeff Gary celebrated his 19th birthday with two points and six rebounds…Jordon Talley paced the Seahawks with six assists…Vasa Pusica dished out a game-high nine dimes for the Huskies...The Seahawks had a three-game winning streak in Boston snapped.