WILMINGTON, North Carolina – Junior guard Grant Riller poured in 31 points and defending Colonial Athletic Association men’s basketball champion College of Charleston outscored UNCW by 17 points at the charity stripe for a 73-66 victory over the Seahawks in the conference opener for both teams on Saturday night at Trask Coliseum.
The Cougars reeled off their ninth straight win and hiked their record to 12-2 and 1-0 this season. The Seahawks dropped their sixth in a row and stand 4-10 and 0-1.
Riller, the CAA’s second leading scorer, went 9-of-19 from the floor and a perfect 9-of-9 at the free throw line for his game-high total. Senior forward Jarrell Brantley and sophomore guard Brevin Galloway added 14 points apiece for CofC, which shot 38.9 percent on the night.
Senior forward Devontae Cacok and freshman playmaker Kai Toews each recorded double-doubles for the Seahawks, who converted 48.2 percent of their field goals.
Cacok pumped in 27 points and grabbed 19 rebounds for his eighth double-double of the season and 43rd of his career. The Riverdale, Ga., product played a season-high 36 minutes for the Seahawks.
Toews, from Tokyo, Japan, wound up with 12 points and matched his career high with 14 assists for his third double-double in his young career. He finished one assist shy of the school’s single game record for the second time this season.
CofC built a 37-29 advantage at halftime and achieved its largest lead of the game, 43-31, on six straight points by Riller with just over 18 minutes remaining.
But the Seahawks stormed back with a 9-0 run to get the game to one possession, 43-40, until Brantley converted a conventional three-point play in traffic to get the margin back to 46-40 at 14:56.
The Cougars padded the lead back to as many as nine points before the Seahawks rallied in the final four minutes.
Trailing 67-61, UNCW scored five straight points and a reverse layup by reserve forward Shawn O’Connell off a pretty feed from Cacok closed the gap to 67-66 with 2:05 left to play.
Brantley responded with a putback, though, at 1:40 to get the lead back to 69-66 before the Seahawks had a shot clock violation and turnover in the final 1:10 to stall a final comeback attempt. Reserves Marquise Pointer and Jaylen McManus made four free throws in the final 21 seconds for the Cougars to nail down the road win.
The Seahawks spotted the Cougars an early 6-2 lead before reeling off seven unanswered points, capped by Cacok’s hook shot in the paint that gave UNCW a 9-6 edge at 13:01 of the first half.
But Riller answered with a triple on the right wing to start a 6-0 spurt and the Cougars led by as many as 11 points in the opening period before another hook shot by Cacok with four seconds remaining sliced the lead to 37-29 at intermission.
CACOK UPDATE: Senior forward Devontae Cacok’s 27 markers pushed his career scoring total to 1,308 points, surpassing Jordan Talley for ninth on the school’s all-time list.
DOUBLE-DOUBLE: The game marked the third time this season that the Seahawks have recorded two double-doubles in a game (Eastern Illinois, Mercer).
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS: The Seahawks were outscored at the free throw line, 21-4, and outscored the Cougars, 24-18, in the paint.
KEY MOMENT: After Shawn O’Connell’s reverse layup cut the deficit to one point, 67-66, with 2:05 showing, Jarrell Brantley scored on a putback on the other end of the floor to get the lead back to 69-66 with just under two minutes on the clock.
QUOTABLE: “Our guys kept battling. We made some big plays to get back into the game, but they also made some big shots. We really played unselfish. The difference was at the free throw line…they did a good job of attacking us in the lane.” -UNCW Head Coach C.B. McGrath
NEXT UP: UNCW embarks on its first CAA road trip of the new year this coming week, visiting James Madison on Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019, before moving over to Towson on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019.