Photo Courtesy of UNCW Athletics Communications
WILMINGTON, N.C. – Ben Eblen hit a game-winning three-pointer with 37.8 seconds left as UNCW held on for a 57-55 double-overtime victory over College of Charleston on Saturday night at Trask Coliseum.
The Cougars (14-15, 6-8 CAA) led by as many 10 as senior Nori Johnson (Greer, S.C.) was fouled on a three-point shot attempt and converted all of his free throws, 38-28, with 9:30 remaining in the second half of play.
Defensively, both teams held each other to a low-scoring first half where CofC went into halftime up 23-18. The Cougars could never break away from the Seahawks (9-21, 3-12 CAA), who avoided the regular-season series sweep, as the home team went on an 8-2 run and gained momentum in the final minutes of regulation.
UNCW would miss two shots in the closing seconds, but Shane Reybold corralled the second miss for a put back at the buzzer to tie the game at 51-all sending the game into overtime. Reybold ended the night with a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Neither team scored in the first overtime period with UNCW and CofC combining for 10 misses and four turnovers. Charleston opened the second overtime scoring the first four points courtesy of a jumper by senior Anthony Thomas (Winston-Salem, N.C.) and two made free throws from junior big man Adjehi Baru (Abidjan, Ivory Coast).
A shot-clock violation by the Cougars gave UNCW back possession of the basketball which led to the eventual three-pointer by Eblen – his only points of the night. It was the Cougars’ second-straight loss to the Seahawks at Trask Coliseum next to another heartbreaking overtime loss in 2007.
Johnson led CofC with a team-high 15 points followed by 13 points from Baru and a double-double from graduate senior Willis Hall (Charlotte, N.C.) with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Up next, the Cougars will travel to Drexel for a mid-week CAA clash on Wednesday, Feb. 26 at 7 p.m. (ET) in Philadelphia, Pa. The game will not be televised, but can be heard live locally on ESPN 910 AM radio in Charleston or online www.charlestonsportsradio.com.
· For the 11th time this season and 11th consecutive game, the Cougars started junior guard Anthony Stitt, senior combo guard Nori Johnson, senior small forward Anthony Thomas, graduate senior forward Willis Hall and junior forward Adjehi Baru (4-7).
· With the win, UNCW split the regular-season series with College of Charleston. The Cougars still lead 10-5 in the all-time series and had previously won the last two meetings between the two schools.
· UNCW was CofC’s third overtime game this season next to UNC Asheville on Nov. 15 and Towson on Feb. 8. It was the program’s first double overtime game since a 99-98 loss in 2OT at Elon on Feb. 2, 2012.
· CofC has not won its last two-straight road games at UNCW and both have now been overtime games in 2007 (L, 98-81 OT) and in 2014 (L, 57-55 in 2OT) in Wilmington, N.C.
· Willis Hall registered his ninth double-double of the season with 10 points and a game-high tying 10 rebounds in a career-high 49 minutes of action against UNCW. It was his second-straight game in double figures in CAA play. He has now tabulated 1,115 career points and 820 career rebounds to date.
· Nori Johnson turned in back-to-back games in double figures with a game-high tying 15 points to mark his eighth double-figure game of the season.
· Adjehi Baru notched his fifth CAA game in double figures with 13 of the team’s 32 points in the paint against UNCW. He also went a season-best 5-for-5 from the free throw line.
· UNCW became the eighth-straight CAA opponent the Cougars held to under 25 points in the first half this season and sixth team with no made three-pointers in the first half of play.
· The Cougars made eight steals in the ballgame – the third-most of the season behind 12 against UNCW on Jan. 22 and nine at Northeastern on Jan. 13.
College of Charleston Head Coach Doug Wojcik
On the double-overtime loss …
“It was a tough loss for us tonight. We’ve had a very demanding year. We’ve lost five straight on the road. We are a very good road team and have been in the past. We lose by two at James Madison. We’re up by nine at William & Mary at the half and they beat us fair and square. We were up 20 at Delaware and lose in the last minute with free throws. We lost in overtime at Towson and now. They (UNCW) played a 2-3 zone and we struggled all night to score. It’s a disappointed locker room. I can’t ask much more from our team other than making shots. We had the game won, but we gave up an offensive rebound to lose the game (in regulation).”
On the message to the team in the locker room after the game …
“We’ve had a lot of tough ones this year. But, we are a pretty resilient team. We are really good defensively and we rebound the ball well. Our inconsistencies have been on offense all year. Whether it’s been turnovers, free throws or shooting. We sat down on their level and didn’t preach to them (in the locker room). You have no choice. You are in the last week of the season. It’s been a tough year, but you have to move on to the next one.”