NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – Sophomore guard C.J. Bryce scored a game-high 24 points, and classmate Devontae Cacok added a double-double of 15 points and 14 boards on perfect 6-of-6 shooting, as UNCW captured its second straight CAA Men’s Basketball title with a 78-69 win over second-seeded College of Charleston.
Bryce was named tournament Most Outstanding Player, scoring 16 of his points in the second half for the top-seeded Seahawks (29-5), who earn their second consecutive trip to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship. Cacok’s perfect shooting performance went alongside two blocks, one steal and one assist. The sophomore finished the tournament shooting 16-for-17 from the field over three total games, a new postseason CAA record.
Redshirt senior Denzel Ingram chipped in 11 points and Jordon Talley scored 10 off the bench in the win – UNCW’s seventh straight overall.
College of Charleston (25-9), appearing in its first title game as a member of the conference, was paced by redshirt junior Joe Chealey’s 21 points and sophomore Jarrell Brantley’s double-double of 20 points and 11 rebounds in defeat. Sophomore Nick Harris had eight points and junior Cameron Johnson netted six points and five rebounds.
In front of a rowdy crowd of 6,342, the league’s top scoring offense in the Seahawks (85.4 points per game), and the conference’s best defensive team (CofC, 63.7 points per game) battled well throughout.
The Seahawks held a six-point halftime lead, and seemingly had an answer each time CofC threatened to close the gap. The Cougars finally got within striking distance twice in the early portion of the second half, after Brantley drilled a trey from the top of the key, and freshman Grant Riller scored on a driving lay-in that made it 47-45 with 13:31 left.
That’s when UNCW upped the tempo and took control for good, securing a 15-point margin over the next five minutes thanks to a 18-5 run. Bryce kick-started and ended the flurry with three-pointers, including the latter that put his team ahead, 65-50 with 8:25 remaining.
The Seahawks were able to hold off the Cougars down the stretch – pushing the lead to as many as 17 points with three minutes to spare – before the celebration commenced as UNCW obtained its sixth overall conference trophy, tying the most in conference history.
It was a frantic pace in the first half with both teams fighting back-and-forth, accounting for nine total lead changes. Chevez Goodwin’s slam near the midway point gave the Cougars an 11-10 lead, and minutes later, a tip-in from Harris made it 17-16.
The Seahawks responded as the half came to close, ending the period on a 14-8 run. Flemmings capped the spurt with his second three-pointer of the game with nine seconds left, helping his team enter the break ahead, 31-26.
Notes: The Seahawks last won back-to-back CAA titles in 2002-03. UNCW, which shot 66.7% in the second half, upped its own program record for single-season wins. The teams split the regular-season series winning on each other’s home court. CofC last won a conference tournament title in 1999 as a member of the Southern Conference under legendary head coach John Kresse. Charleston shot 5-of-17 from three-point range, while UNCW made 10-of-25 shots from behind the arc.