Sophomore playmaker Jordon Talley drilled six free throws in the final 1:52 as Colonial Athletic Association leader UNCW held off pesky Elon to post their school-record 10th consecutive victory 86-82 over the Phoenix in conference men’s basketball action on Thursday night at Trask Coliseum.
The Seahawks raised their record to 19-5 overall, 11-2 in the CAA, and moved two games clear of Hofstra, James Madison and William & Mary in the CAA standings. The Phoenix suffered their second straight loss and stand 14-12 and 4-8 in the league.
“Elon is a very good team and a very dangerous team,” said Kevin Keatts, UNCW’s second-year coach. “It was a nightmare and we needed someone to step up. We needed somebody to get to the hole and Jordon (Talley) was very aggressive. They made Jordon finish and he did a good job of that.”
The crafty Talley led all scorers with 19 points off the bench, making 4-of-9 from the field and 11-of-12 at the free throw line. Junior guard Denzel Ingram added 18 points, senior guard Craig Ponder collected 13 and C.J. Bryce had 10.
The Seahawks shot 50 percent in the second half and went 24-of-33 at the free throw line on the game to extend their winning streak to 10 games, eclipsing the record of nine in a row set by the 1997-98 and 2005-06 clubs. UNCW has not lost since a Jan. 7 defeat at Towson, a span of 35 days.
Clinging to an 80-78 advantage with 48 seconds left to play, Ingram gave the Seahawks some breathing room with a timely jumper near the free throw line with 24 seconds on the clock. But the Phoenix answered on a layup as Talley responded by draining a pair of free throws with 12 seconds showing to get the margin back to 84-80.
“They’re playing very well and with a lot of confidence right now,” said Elon Head Coach Matt Matheny, who was celebrating his 46th birthday. “At the end of the day, we didn’t get enough stops. We evidently put the wrong guy at the line. It was a great game, but unfortunately we came up short.”
UNCW took a 44-38 edge into intermission and had a difficult time shaking the hot-shooting Phoenix in the second half. It took clutch free throw shooting for the Seahawks to overcome the visitors, who climbed within one point on four different occasions in the second period. Elon wound up shooting 52.8 percent on the night.
The Seahawks built an eight-point lead with just under 16 minutes to go on a triple by Ponder in the right corner before the Phoenix roared back. Still trailing 60-62, Elon strung together seven unanswered points and Dainan Swope’s layup on the left side sliced the deficit to 60-59 at the 10:15 mark.
But UNCW kept the Phoenix at bay with strong free throw shooting over the final 10 minutes, converting 11-of-15 down the stretch.
The Seahawks close out a two-game homes tand on Saturday with a nationally televised contest against James Madison at 3 p.m.