By: Jeff Walker, Sports Writer
The College of Charleston men’s basketball team put their 22nd national ranking and 15 game win streak to the test as they travelled to North Carolina Wednesday night to take on equally strong UNC Wilmington with their own 12 game winning streak. It was a battle between two of the best teams in the Colonial Athletic Association, with neither looking to put an end to their winning ways.
The matchup lived up to the pregame hype with the contest going down to the wire. Despite holding a double digit lead at the half the Cougars had to fight for their lives in the final five minutes of play, as Charleston escaped Wilmington with a 71-69 victory. A fast and furious late contest defensive stand by CofC helped secure the win. With the victory CofC improve to 17-1 overall and 5-0 in the CAA, extending the nations longest winning streak to 16 games.
A total of four players from each team ended up in double figures with CofC’s Dalton Bolon as well as UNCW’s Trazarien White and Jamarii Thomas finishing with a game best 16 points apiece. Ante Brzovic and Ryan Larson chipped in 13 each for Charleston, with the Seahawks Amari Kelly adding 13 for the home team. UNCW’s Maleeck Harden Hayes and CofC’s Ben Burnham finished with 12 points each.
Burnham did most of his offensive damage before the midway point of the first half, accounting for 10 of Charleston’s 16 points. While the home team kept pace for the first 10 minutes of play, CofC maintained the lead throughout, slowly starting to pull ahead.
The Cougars held the Seahawks scoreless for over three minutes while causing three turnovers resulting in a 7-0 run and a 21-12 advantage. When Reyne Smith drained from long range the Cougars took a 29-17 advantage with 6:35 showing on the clock. Charleston would take a confident 42-31 into the locker room.
However, it was all UNCW after the break. A four minute scoring drought by the Cougars combined with an 18-9 run by the home team allowed the Seahawks to pull with two points midway through the second half. Despite shooting 1 of 20 over a 12 minute period, the Cougars were able to maintain a one or two possession lead for 15 minutes.
With just over four minutes to play a short jumper by Harden-Hayes gave the Seahawks their first lead (63-62) of the night. When he followed with a triple UNCW went up by four capping off an 8-0 run. After both teams traded long range missiles the visitors still trailed by two.
When Larson scored three the hard way the Cougars regained the lead (70-69) with 90 seconds left on the clock. As Trask Coliseum was rocking both teams dug in. A missed 3-point attempt by Larsen with 47 seconds opened a door of opportunity for the home team.
Failure to rebound by the Cougars allowed the Seahawks two missed attempts with CofC’s Jaylon Scott blocking another shot with less than a two seconds remaining. Larson made one of two from the line at the other end, purposely missing the second attempt leaving UNCW a hail Mary that was off the mark as the buzzer sounded.
The Cougars return to TD Arena for two straight home contests, starting with a Saturday tilt against Elon. Action is set for 4:00 p.m. in Charleston. Limited tickets remain for what has become the hottest ticket in town.
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