WILMINGTON, North Carolina – Brian Starr’s leaner in the lane with five seconds remaining in overtime caromed off the rim and UNCW completed a dramatic comeback to stun Towson, 73-71, in a Colonial Athletic Association men’s basketball rematch on Saturday at Trask Coliseum.
The Seahawks snapped a two-game losing streak and improved to 6-14 overall and 3-5 in the CAA with the big home win. The Tigers, picked to finish second in the CAA’s preseason poll, are now 14-7 and 4-4 in the conference.
“Multiple guys made big plays,” said C.B. McGrath, UNCW’s head coach. “We’ve had a heckuva four-game stretch and we had to juggle a lot of things tonight. The guys are happy they won and they should be happy and be proud of their effort tonight.”
It was the fourth overtime game of the season for McGrath’s rebuilt club and third in four games.
Redshirt sophomore guard Ty Taylor, who nearly lifted the Seahawks to an upset at preseason favorite Charleston Thursday, turned in another outstanding night. The Grandview, Mo., product led four Seahawks in double figures with 20 points, including 13 points after halftime.
Senior guard Jordon Talley contributed 14 points, junior forward Devontae Cacok scored 12 and sophomore guard Jaylen Fornes finished with 10 for the Seahawks, who overcame 39.3 percent shooting with gritty play down the stretch. Junior transfer Jacque Brown also provided a spark off the bench with nine points on 4-of-7 shooting with three steals.
Towson sophomore guard Zane Martin, the CAA’s fifth leading scorer, led all scorers with 21 points, while senior guard Deshaun Morman collected 13, and senior guard Mike Morsell and sophomore forward Justin Gorham closed with 10 points apiece.
“We clearly shot ourselves in the foot,” said an exasperated Pat Skerry, Towson’s seventh-year head coach. “We missed some free throws, and didn’t make enough plays statistically.”
It was UNCW’s 14th win in 16 games between the two clubs at Trask Coliseum, but it didn’t come easy.
In a rematch of a game played on Jan. 5 at SECU Arena, the game had a plethora of twists and turns and wasn’t over until Starr’s jumper in the lane with five seconds left in overtime caromed off the left side of the iron.
The Seahawks trailed most of the game before catching up with four seconds left in regulation when Talley dropped in a pair of clutch free throws after being fouled by Morman.
Towson gained the upper hand, 70-67, in the extra session before UNCW rallied with an unorthodox three-pointer by Talley and a breakaway layup by Fornes to grab a 72-70 edge with 57 seconds on the clock.
Morman then connected on the first of two free throws with 36 seconds left to slice the deficit to 72-71, but the Seahawks turned the ball over, allowing the Tigers and Starr another chance. The Kansas City native raced the length of the floor, but his shot was off the mark and Marcus Bryan picked up the rebound and closed the game out with a free throw at the other end.
Towson led by as many as 12 points in the second half when Gorham sank a short jumper with 11:57 remaining in the regulation. The basket capped an 8-0 spurt by the Tigers and put Skerry’s club in good position to sweep the series.
UNCW rallied, however, behind Taylor and Talley over the last 12 minutes and finally caught up on Talley’s critical free throws with four seconds to go.
Saddled with severe foul trouble, the Seahawks kept the game close in the first half before the Tigers grabbed a 36-31 edge at halftime. Three UNCW players – Cacok, Fornes and Marcus Bryan – each collected two fouls in the opening period.
Cacok picked up two quick personals in the first 1:51 of the contest, but the Seahawks got a big lift from Brown to stay within striking distance.
Brown, who had not scored in the previous three games, played 10 minutes in the opening period and made 3-of-4 field goals for seven points, along with a steal.
After Towson took its largest lead of the first period, 22-11, on Martin’s first bucket of the contest – a triple from the left wing – at 10:31, the Seahawks responded to pull within four points on a monster dunk by Cacok and then closed to 34-31, when Talley sank a trifecta from the right corner.
A bucket by Morman with 47 seconds left staked the Tigers to a 36-31 lead at the break, despite shooting just 38.5 percent from the field. Towson aided its cause with a perfect 12-for-12 aim at the charity stripe in the first period.
The Seahawks continue their three-game homestand on Thursday, Jan. 25, when they entertain James Madison in a 7 p.m. tip-off.
GAME NOTES: UNCW owns a 23-15 all-time record vs. Towson…The Tigers built a 46-41 advantage on the glass, marking the 63rd time in the last 71 games the team has won the battle of the boards…Towson was held to its lowest point total in seven games…The Tigers used the same starters for the 21st straight game…Talley scored 14 points to raise his career total to 1,088 in 113 appearances, tying him for 17th on UNCW’s all-time list with Mark Byington…The Tigers had just seven assists…UNCW led for only 5:09…There were six ties and four lead changes…The two clubs combined for 41-of-55 at the free throw line…Towson went 6-of-20 from long distance and UNCW went 5-of-21.