UNCW opened the second half with a 22-3 run and shot 54.5 percent in the period to hold off No. 7 seeded Charleston 66-64 and advance to the semifinals of the 2016 Colonial Athletic Association Men’s Basketball Championship on Saturday at Royal Farms Arena.
The Seahawks raised their record to 23-7 with the victory and will face No. 6 seeded Northeastern in the second of two semifinal games on Sunday at 3:30 p.m.
“What a great game,” said Kevin Keatts, two-time CAA Coach of the Year. “I thought we stood around too much in the first half. Give Coach (Earl) Grant a lot of credit. His team is one of the best defensive teams in the league. They did everything they could. They did a great job in the first half and we struggled to score.
“We played with a lot of energy and a lot of passion in the second half. We had to take away the three-point line in the second half and play without fouling.”
Sophomore forward Marcus Bryan came off the bench to lead the Seahawks with a career-high 16 points on 8-of-10 shooting and added five rebounds. Junior guard Chris Flemmings added 13 points for the Seahawks, who caught fire in the first five minutes of the second half to wipe out a 13-point halftime deficit.
After draining six of their first seven field goal attempts, including all five of their three-point field goal attempts in the first five minutes of the final period, the Seahawks led 65-61 on a pair of free throws by freshman guard C.J. Bryce with 1:39 remaining before the Cougars rallied to close the gap to 65-64 on a layup with just over a minute left to play.
The Cougars got the ball back after a missed field goal attempt and worked the ball inside, but junior guard Denzel Ingram forced a turnover and Jordon Talley added the second of two free throws on the other end to raise the score to 66-64 with 5.1 seconds left.
The Cougars used a 19-4 spurt midway through the first half to break away to a big lead at intermission. Johnson scored 11 points in the opening stanza as Charleston went 7-of-9 from long distance and held UNCW’s leading scorers, Flemmings and Ingram, to a combined two points on 1-of-7 shooting.
Charleston opened up its largest lead of the game, 37-21, with 2:20 left in the first half on a tip-in by reserve forward Terrance O’Donohue.
It was another in a string of close games between the Seahawks and Cougars. Five of the last eight meetings between the two teams have been decided by five points or less, including the last two games this year.
The Seahawks eliminated the Cougars from the CAA Tournament for the second straight year after cruising to a 79-63 verdict last March in Baltimore.