WILMINGTON, North Carolina – Senior forward Devontae Cacok became UNCW’s all-time rebounding king and paced five players in double figures – including three with 20+ points – as UNCW used an inspired second half to drill Drexel, 97-83, in a Colonial Athletic Association men’s basketball matinee early Saturday at Trask Coliseum.
The Seahawks improved to 7-11 overall and 3-2 after splitting a two-game conference home stand. The Dragons dropped to 8-11 and 2-4.
Cacok, who was recognized prior to the game for reaching the 1,000-point, 1,000-rebound milestones, needed just one rebound to become the school’s all-time leading rebounder and finished with 12 boards to go along with 24 points. Cacok snared an offensive board with 12:27 remaining in the first half to eclipse Keith Rendleman on the career list.
Junior forward Jeantal Cylla and sophomore guard Ty Gadsden added 20 points apiece to give the Seahawks three over the 20-point plateau. The Seahawks entered the day with just eight 20-point games all season. Sophomore guard Jay Estime’ chipped in 11 and freshman playmaker Kai Toews closed with 10 points and 13 assists in an all-around day.
Drexel, which upset Charleston two days earlier at TD Arena, also placed five in double figures, topped by junior guard Kurk Lee’s 19 points. Senior guard Troy Harper and sophomore forward James Butler scored 17 points apiece, junior forward Alihan Demir scored 13 and graduate guard Trevor John wound up with 11 for the Dragons, who dipped to 2-7 in road games this season.
UNCW fell behind, 42-40, at halftime and the pesky Dragons were still on top, 49-42, when the Seahawks made their move.
The bouncy Cacok used back-to-back conventional three-point plays to key a 17-2 spurt and a step back jumper by Toews at 14:41 put the Seahawks in the lead, 59-51.
Drexel responded by scoring seven of the next nine points to close within 61-58 with just over 12 minutes left, but UNCW went on another run – this time a 10-0 rally – to break out again. Estime’ capped the decisive spurt with a triple in the left corner to extend UNCW’s margin to 71-58 at 8:15.
The game turned into a free throw shooting contest down the stretch. UNCW, which outscored Drexel in the second half, 57-41, converted 12-of-14 free throws over the final 2:25 to nail down its first home conference win of the season.
The Seahawks jumped out to a quick 14-7 advantage behind Cylla before the Dragons caught up. Gadsden connected on a long three-pointer with 15:23 left in the first half, but Drexel rallied behind Lee to pull even at 21-all before grabbing its first lead of the contest, 25-23, on a pair of free throws by Harper with 6:42 left in the first half.
Drexel took a 42-40 edge into intermission after shooting 50 percent in the opening period and sinking eight three-pointers.
SERIES UPDATE: The Seahawks lead the all-time series, 20-12, and stand 11-4 against the Dragons all-time in Wilmington.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS: With Devontae Cacok, Jeantal Cylla and Ty Gadsden each reaching the 20-point level, it marked the first time three Seahawks had scored 20+ points since a 107-87 victory over Drexel in Wilmington last season on Jan. 2, 2018.
DOUBLE-DOUBLE UPDATE: Devontae Cacok posted his CAA-leading 12th double-double of the season and the 47th of his career, while Kai Toews collected his fourth double-double. It marked the fourth time in 2018-19 that the Seahawks have had two double-doubles in a game.
CACOK STAT UPDATE: Devontae Cacok’s stat line pushed his career numbers to 1,362 points and 1,067 rebounds. He moved into sixth on the CAA’s all-time rebounding list.
KEY MOMENT: When Kurk Lee’s mid-range jumper pulled Drexel within, 61-58, with 12:14 left, Jay Estime’ knocked down his second three-pointer of the game to kick start a 10-0 run to stall the Dragons’ comeback.
QUOTABLE: “Obviously, the locker room was happier than it was on Thursday. The guys really competed the whole game. I liked our defensive effort. It’s fun to watch our guys when we’re playing unselfish and playing hard. I’m just glad that we bounced back from Thursday night.” – UNCW Head Coach C.B. McGrath
UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN: The two clubs will play again on Thursday, Feb. 7, at the Daskalakis Center in Philadelphia. Pa.
NEXT UP: The Seahawks head back on the road this week to take on Hofstra (Jan. 17, 2019) and Northeastern (Jan. 19, 2019) in a two-game swing through the Northeast corridor. UNCW and Hofstra collide Thursday night at 7 p.m. at the Mack Sports Complex in Hempstead, N.Y.