BATON ROUGE, Louisiana – UNCW outscored hot shooting LSU by three points in the second half, but the Tigers used a large halftime lead to hold off the Seahawks, 97-84, in a non-conference men’s basketball matchup on Sunday at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
The Tigers of the Southeastern Conference pushed their record to 5-2 overall and remained unbeaten at home with a clean 4-0 mark.
The Seahawks dropped their fourth straight game – all away from Trask Coliseum – and own a 2-5 ledger on the young season. UNCW is a combined 0-5 in neutral and road games.
“I liked how our kids competed,” said C.B. McGrath, UNCW’s first-year head coach. “It wasn’t perfect. We made some mistakes and we had some unforced turnovers, but that’s what we’ve been doing the last few games.
“Something has to change. We can’t keep making the same unforced turnovers. We can’t keep allowing them to drive. It creates all types of problems. We need to correct that for things to turn around in the win column.”
UNCW, playing its first game in December and the first time since the conclusion of first semester exams, placed five men in double figures. Senior guard Jordon Talley led the way with 22 points, three rebounds and seven assists, followed by redshirt junior guard JaQuel Richmond with 16 points, redshirt guard Ty Taylor with 15, freshman guard Jeff Gary with 12 and junior forward Devontae Cacokwith 10.
Senior forward Duop Reath paced the Tigers with 30 points, including 19 in the first half. He finished 13-of-17 from the floor and anchored four players in double digits. Freshman guard Tremont Waters chipped in 20, sophomore guard Skylar Mays collected 14 and sophomore forward Wayde Sims had 11.
Powered by Reath and Waters, the Tigers shot a robust 63.6 percent in the opening half to open up a comfortable halftime margin, 52-36, and then held on down the stretch as the Seahawks staged several comebacks in the final period.
LSU still led by 15 points early in the final period, 57-42, after Reath made a free throw at 15:52 on Cacok’s third foul in the first 3:48 of the second half. Richmond, however, keyed a 9-2 spurt and the Greensboro product’s three-pointer at 13:18 closed the gap to 59-51.
The Tigers scored six unanswered points as the lead ballooned back to 65-51 before the Seahawks stormed back and closed to within seven points, 66-59, on Gary’s trifecta in front of the Seahawk bench at 11:43.
UNCW got no closer than nine points the rest of the way as Mays scored 12 of his 14 points in the last 20 minutes to keep the Seahawks at bay.
Reath, a 6-11, 244-pounder with a wide wingspan, made 9-of-13 field goals en route to 19 of his points in the first half and Waters connected on 4-of-8 from the field as well.
The crafty Waters was the catalyst early for the Tigers and the freshman guard’s jumper along the right wing gave LSU a quick 12-6 advantage at the 16:42 mark.
Taylor accounted for UNCW’s first six points and Talley then got into the act, draining a triple at 7:16 to pull the Seahawks within 22-19.
But the Tigers, behind Reath, caught fire in the final seven minutes of the period to create separation. A conventional three-point play by Aaron Epps at the four-minute media timeout extended the lead to 45-31 and Waters converted both ends of a bonus situation with 32 seconds left in the period to give LSU a 52-36 cushion at intermission.
The Tigers built a 40-29 rebounding edge in the contest and scored 48 points in the paint. “We knew points in the paint and offensive rebounding would be huge. They attacked us inside and we didn’t get enough rebounds,” said McGrath.
The Seahawks close out a five-game road trip on Wednesday with a 7 p.m. contest against UNC Greensboro at the Greensboro Coliseum.
GAME NOTES: UNCW now stands 2-15 all-time vs SEC opposition…The Seahawks shot 35.3 percent in the first half and 50 percent after the break…Reserves scored 46 of UNCW’s points…UNCW went 12-for-33 from deep…The Tigers made 17-of-20 free throws…It was the first meeting between the two schools since December of 1984…It marked the first time this season the Seahawks have had a new starting lineup…Devontae Cacok was held to a season-low four rebounds…Five players had five or more rebounds for the Tigers…UNCW stands 1-7 lifetime vs. Louisiana schools…Tremont Waters dished out a game-high 10 assists for LSU…The Tigers led for 39:27 of the contest.