WASHINGTON D.C. (UNCW release) - No. 8-seeded Drexel used key back-to-back three-pointers by reserves Zach Walton and Coltrane Washington late in a decisive second half to get past No. 9 UNCW, 66-55, in the opening game of the 2020 Hercules Tires Colonial Athletic Association Men’s Basketball Championship early Saturday at the Entertainment & Sports Arena.
The Dragons snapped a seven-game losing streak and stand 14-18 on the season. Zach Spiker’s team will take on top-seeded Hofstra on Sunday at noon in the CAA quarterfinals. The Seahawks closed out the season at 10-22.
The Dragons won the rubber game of the season between the two clubs by breaking open a close contest and outscoring the Seahawks by 10 points in the second half. Much of the damage was done behind the arc, where Drexel went 9-of-21, including 5-of-12 in the final 20 minutes.
“At the end of the day, those 11 guys we have in the locker room are real Seahawks and I’m so proud of them,” said Rob Burke, UNCW’s interim head coach. “We were evenly matched across the board statistically, but they had a couple guys come up big for them. The competition, energy and enthusiasm was high. It just came down to three-point shooting.”
Second-Team All-CAA performer Camren Wynter paced the Dragons with 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting. Walton added 12 points off the bench as Drexel stretched its one-point halftime lead to as many as 11 points in the second half.
Sophomore forward Marten Linssen turned in a big game for the Seahawks, who struggled from the floor at 38.6 percent. The Dusseldorf, Germany, native scored a team-high 18 points and was just one carom shy of his third career double-double with nine rebounds. Junior guard Ty Gadsden chipped in 13 points for the Seahawks in a losing cause.
The two teams battled through a back-and-forth first half before Drexel opened the final period with a 12-2 spurt, including 10 straight points, to gain separation. A three-ball by Mate Okros started the rally and a putback by T.J. Bickerstaff with 17:06 remaining gave the Dragons a 44-33 cushion.
Drexel maintained the margin at 10 points until the Seahawks reeled off seven unanswered points to make it a one possession game. Jake Boggs drained a trifecta, Brian Tolefree sank a pair of free throws and Shykeim Phillips converted a layup to bring the Seahawks within 52-49 with 5:26 left to play.
The Drexel lead stayed at three points when Walton and Washington provided their heroics at a critical stage. With the game hanging in the balance and just under three minutes remaining, Walton found the bottom of the net in the right corner and Washington canned his triple from the top of the key to hike the margin back to 60-51. The Seahawks could get no closer than seven points the rest of the way.
The two teams opened the tournament as the event made its debut in southeast Washington for the first of three years.