Brantley Adds 35th Career Double Double, Scores 23 While Grabbing 10 Boards
By: Jeff Walker, Sports Writer
The final two minutes in the final home game of the College of Charleston men's basketball contest this season were full of excitement. Up by eight points CofC's Sam Miller was called for a foul which lead to a technical being assessed. UNC Wilmington's Ty Gadsdem made the two technicals with Devontae Cacok hitting one of his two to make it 66-61 with 1:23 remaining.
With the shot clock running down Marquise Pointer missed a desperation lay up keeping UNCW within two possessions, but an authoritative block by Jarrell Brantley on Cacok, lead to four attempts at the foul line for Charleston with Grant Riller and Zep Jasper making both pair, as the Cougars held on for a 70-61 victory over the Seahawks.
With the win the College finish 23-8 overall and 12-6 in the Colonial Athletic Association. CofC will next play in the CAA Tournament which completes its three year run at the North Charleston Coliseum beginning next Saturday thru Tuesday. Finishing as the third seed in the CAA, Charleston will play Drexel at 8:30pm Sunday night.
It was an emotional afternoon at TD Arena as CofC celebrated the final home games of the senior players, including starters Brantley, Pointer, and Nick Harris. Brantley would end up being the game's high scorer, making 10 of 19 from the floor for 23 points. He added his fourth straight and 35th overall double double, hauling in 10 rebounds for the Cougars. Riller went 8 of 14 from the field for 22 points. Each added one from long range.
Brantley admitted it's nice to end up his career at TD Arena with a 'W'. "It's bittersweet. I'm grateful though. I've had a lot of great memories here and had some tough ones, too. Charleston has allowed me to grow in an amazing way. I will always be grateful for it. It's a good feeling that this would be the last game (a win against UNCW). I've come so far, but at the same time, it's a little tough knowing that I never (aside from post season) will able to put that uniform on or give my all for our team."
Riller was equally as happy to be able to send the seniors off with a win at home. "We wanted to get the win not only for Rell (Jarrell Brantley), but all the seniors. We wanted to come out here, play hard and let them leave TD Arena in a positive manner. It's good we got the win for them and it's good we got the win heading into March (and the CAA Tourney)."
CofC jumped out to an early 8-0 lead before UNCW erased the goose egg from their side of the scoreboard. Midway thru the opening period back to back buckets by Brantle including a slam dunk gave the host team a 21-10 advantage. After Pointer made two foul shots with 5:02 remaining in the half the Cougars enjoyed their biggest lead (29-17) of the game.
Brantley and Riller combined for 25 first half points as Charleston took a 39-30 lead at intermission. What kept the Seahawks with striking distance in the first 20 minutes of play was connecting on 6 of 19 from beyond the arc, even though CofC outshot them 57 percent to 32 percent.
As the two teams returned to the court in the second half it appeared the Cougars left the offense in the locker room. UNCW chipped away at the lead with CofC adding only six points in the first 10 minutes. The Seahawks would tie the game on two occasions, the second time on a lay up by Cacok making it 45 all with 10:46 still left to play. But the Cougars kept their cool and the rim, up by nine points with less than four minutes remaining. Aside from the two ties the Cougars never trailed in the contest.
CofC Head Coach Earl Grant said the team perhaps got caught up in the overall excitement, which may have lead to less points at the start of the second half. "Thirty-nine points in the first half is a lot of points for us. Anytime I see 39 and 35 or above, because we are averaging 73, I always error to say, 'if we score 70, we have a chance to win almost every game."
He added, "I thought in the second half, they (UNCW) made a few adjustments coming out of the locker-room. We came out a little flat. Maybe, because of emotions. They made a run and it's a game of runs.They cut it to five and we were able to reestablish ourselves. We led the whole game. We had a few miscues, but I thought the guys played well."
UNC Wilmington finish the regular season with a disappointing 9-22 record, leaving a 5-22 mark in the CAA. Cacok and Gadsden lead the Seahawks with 16 and 15 points respectively. Cacok hauled in a game best 18 rebounds. UNCW took 69 shots overall and only made 19 (27.5%) including nine from long range. Finishing 10th in the league UNCW will face 7th seeded and fellow North Carolina native Elon 6:30pm Saturday night in the CAA Tournament.
Echoing the sentiment of his players, Coach Grant was elated for a victory and hopes they carry that mojo into the tournament. "I'm really happy. No. 1 that we were able to win on Senior Night. Anytime you have a Senior Night, you want it to be joyous. I'm really happy that we had a great crowd. We almost had 5,000 fans and our goal is 5,100. Hopefully, we can continue to move toward that goal."
CofC will be the No. 3 seed at next week's 2019 CAA Men's Basketball Championship to be held on March 9-12 at the North Charleston Coliseum in North Charleston, S.C. They will face No. 6 seed Drexel (13-18, 7-11 CAA) in the quarterfinals on Sunday, March 10 at 8:30 p.m. (ET). Single-game tickets for the tournament can be purchased at the North Charleston Coliseum Box Office or online at: www.Ticketmaster.com