It was a redemption game for senior playmaker Jordon Talley and a key one for UNCW in its hopes for an opening-round bye in next week’s Colonial Athletic Association Tournament in Charleston.
The speedy Talley, who has come up shy on a couple end-of-the-game opportunities this season, flipped in a leaner with eight seconds left on the clock to help the Seahawks survive a wild finish and edge Drexel, 83-82, in the men’s basketball regular season finale for both teams early Saturday at the Daskalakis Center.
“We were due to get a bounce our way,” said UNCW Head Coach C.B. McGrath. “There’s a lot of options with that play and that’s why we like to use it. If Jordon can get all the way to the basket and make it or if he’s wide open, he can shoot it. He did a great job.
“We’ve responded and battled all year. We’re used to playing with the game on the line and have been in close games it seems like every single game. The guys just kept battling and believed and knew we could make the plays at the end.”
The Seahawks, 10-20 overall and 7-11 in the CAA, salvaged a split of its season-ending two-game road trip after falling two days earlier at William & Mary. UNCW also completed a sweep of the regular season series with Drexel.
The Dragons, who staged the largest rally in NCAA Division history two days earlier in a 34-point comeback against Delaware, could not muster a similar result on Saturday and finished 12-19 and 6-12.
The teams will now wait for completion of Monday’s game between Elon and James Madison to learn the seeding for next week’s post-season tournament in Charleston.
Redshirt sophomore guard Ty Taylor paced four Seahawks in double figures with 23 points and added nine rebounds. Talley wound up with 21 points and eight assists, junior forward Devontae Cacok collected 16 points and 21 rebounds and sophomore guard Jaylen Fornes finished with 12 points.
Junior guard Tramaine Isabell of Drexel led all scorers with 29 points, including 23 as the Dragons rallied in the second half. Sophomore forward Alihan Demir scored 16 points off the bench, sophomore guard Kurk Lee contributed 11 and senior guard Sammy Mojica had 10 points.
The Seahawks took a lead into halftime for the second straight game on the road trip, but finished the deal this time with timely plays down the stretch. The game featured 12 lead changes in a see-saw second half on “Senior Day” at the Dak.
No more than six points separated the teams in the second half and the contest hung in the balance when Talley dribbled down the right side and delivered with eight seconds left on the clock.
After Isabell sank a pair of free throws with 19 seconds remaining, Talley took the inbounds pass and drove the length of the floor before launching his game-winner in front of the Seahawk bench.
Lee then drove the middle of the lane on the ensuing possession and misfired on a layup, but Austin Williams was there for a tip. The ball rolled around the rim and caromed off as time expired, giving the Seahawks their second road victory of the campaign.
McGrath said: “Both teams did a great job of making plays at the end of the game. It was a battle of attrition at the end of a long season and we wound up on top.”
The Seahawks took advantage of Drexel’s shooting woes early to race out to an 18-5 lead before the Dragons got untracked.
It was all Talley and Taylor right off the bat for the Seahawks, who bucketed 14 of the game’s first 17 points. A putback by Fornes staked the Seahawks to a 14-3 bulge with 14:18 left in the opening period, drawing a timeout from Drexel skipper Zach Spiker.
Drexel, which opened the game just 3-for-19 from the floor, got going midway through the period, however, with an 11-4 spurt. Isabell scored inside with 5:42 remaining to pull the Dragons within, 26-23, but the Seahawks got the lead back to 10 points with a minute left before a late rally by the Dragons sliced the deficit to 38-34 at the break.
GAME NOTES: The Seahawks finished 2-15 away from Wilmington during the regular season…Cacok had 11 of his game-high 21 rebounds in the first half…The teams battled to a 49-all draw on the glass…Three Seahawks finished with four or more fouls…Isabell, the CAA’s second leading scorer, faced the Seahawks for the first time after missing the first matchup of the season with an injury…Drexel’s largest lead of the game was four points…Cacok posted his 22nd double-double of the season and 35th of his career…Talley now has 1,263 career points in 123 appearances, moving him past Jim Hall into ninth on the school’s all-time scoring list…Cacok’s 21 rebounds was his 23rd game of the season with double digits in caroms…It was the fourth 21-rebound game in Cacok’s career and second against the Dragons…The Seahawks won an afternoon game for the first time this season in eight tries…Cacok now has 413 rebounds this season, the third most ever by a player in the CAA.