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Sweet 16: No. 22 College of Charleston gets by UNCW to keep streak alive


WILMINGTON, N.C. – The UNC Wilmington student section was located directly behind the College of Charleston bench at Trask Coliseum.

The frenzied thousand or so teal-clad UNCW students were ready to storm the court and celebrate a Seahawks victory and the ending to the nation’s longest winning streak.

Ryan Larson had other ideas.

Charleston guard Ryan Larson (11) drives to the basket against UNC Wilmington guard Shykeim Phillips (2) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023, in Wilmington, N.C.

The Cougars’ point guard hit the go-ahead layup and free throw with 1:37 to play, and Jaylan Scott came up with the defensive play of the game as No. 22 College of Charleston held on to defeat UNCW, 71-69, before a raucous sellout crowd of 5,221 at Trask Coliseum.

The Cougars improved to 17-1 and 5-0 in the Colonial Athletic Association and extended the nation’s longest winning streak to 16 games. The Seahawks, who had the country’s second-longest winning streak at 13 games, fell to 14-4, 4-1.

Charleston led most of the game, but a poor shooting performance in the second half allowed the Seahawks to claw their way back into the game. The Cougars started the second half going just 1 of 20 from the floor.

Trailing by as many as 15 points in the first half, UNCW took its first lead at 63-62 on Maleeck Harden-Hayes’ 3-pointer with 4:50 to play.

“We want to take high-advantage shots and I thought we settled some in the second half,” said College of Charleston coach Pat Kelsey. “Give Wilmington credit, they were playing great defense and forcing us into settling a few times because of the defense they were playing. I think good teams don’t let their offense effect their defense and our guys dug down and guarded and got stops when we needed to. We were fortunate to come out with the win.”

Charleston guard Jaylon Scott celebrates after he blocked a shot by UNC Wilmington guard Shykeim Phillips in the closing seconds of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023, in Wilmington, N.C.

Wilmington took its biggest lead of the game, 69-64, on a 3-point from Jamarii Thomas with 2:21 but that would be the final points for the Seahawks.

Ante Brzovic knocked down a three with 2:11 to play and then Larson drove the lane on the Cougars next possession to give Charleston the lead for good, 70-69.

“I didn’t shoot well in the second half, had an airball that wasn’t a great shot,” Larson said. “I saw the lane open up and I probably should have two-foot jumped stop, but went up with one foot and happened to get the basket and the and one.

“The power of unit is what we talk about the most. No matter what, we focus on the next play, the next stop. This was a crazy atmosphere, but we stayed focused on what we needed to do.”

UNC Wilmington guards Shykeim Phillips (2) and Nick Farrar, center, and Charleston guard Pat Robinson III, right, vie for the ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023, in Wilmington, N.C.

Wilmington still had a chance to win the game, but Scott blocked Shykeim Phillips’s short jumper in the final seconds to secure the victory.

“Those are two grown men making grown men plays,” Kelsey said. “Those are two of our leaders. Those are two world class dudes. They are more mature than I am. You sleep like a baby knowing that those guys have the ball in their hands with the game on the line.”

It looked like it was going to be an easy win for the Cougars early on. Charleston shot 55 percent in the opening half, including 7 of 15 from three, and opened up a 15-point advantage.

“I thought we let the chaos and the outside noise get to us a little bit,” UNC Wilmington coach Takayo Siddle. “Charleston came out and punched us in the mouth. They were tougher and they out competed us. They got to every loose ball. There’s a reason they’ve won 16 games in a row and are nationally ranked.”

The Cougars led 42-31 at halftime.

Dalton Bolon led the Cougars with 16 points, while Larson and Brzovic finished with 13 points each. Ben Burnham continued his hot play with 12 points off the bench.

Charleston will face Elon on Jan. 14 at TD Arena. Tipoff is set for 4 p.m.

This content was originally published here.

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