GREENVILLE, NC (UNCWsports.com) – Junior forward Devontae Cacok had a monster game of 35 points and 12 rebounds for UNCW, but host East Carolina outscored the Seahawks, 14-9, in the overtime period for a 93-88 decision late Thursday in the 65th meeting of the eastern North Carolina rivals at Minges Coliseum.
The Pirates, playing for the first time under interim head coach Michael Perry following Wednesday’s resignation by Jeff Lebo, improved to 3-4 on the season and snapped a two-game skid. The Seahawks suffered their third straight loss and stand 2-4 heading into the final exam break for the fall semester.
“Our guys played hard and competed, but just didn’t get it done,” said UNCW skipper C.B. McGrath, who was facing UNCW’s longtime rival for the first time. “It was a hard-fought basketball game that came down to one possession. Overtime games usually mean one possession here or there. Unfortunately for us, ECU made the plays in overtime.
“I’m proud of our guy’s effort. Every time we ran our stuff all the way through, I thought we got some good looks. We tried to get the ball to Devontae as much as we could. He had a heckuva basketball game. In a one possession game, it’s everybody’s fault. It’s UNCW’s fault that we lost that game.”
Senior guard B.J. Tyson paced four Pirates in double figures with 30 points, while junior guard Issac Fleming chipped in 21 points, redshirt freshman Shawn Williams scored 15 and freshman forward Dimitri Spasojevic had 10. Senior forward Jabari Craig also ripped down a game-high 14 rebounds for the Pirates, who snapped a two-game losing streak.
Cacok, the leading rebounder in the NCAA Division I ranks, surpassed his previous career-high of 34 points set last December vs. NCAA Division II Pffeifer. The Riverdale, Ga., product set an NCAA record one year ago for field goal percentage and converted 16-of-19 field goal attempts on Thursday on a variety of buckets around the iron.
Senior guard Jordon Talley chipped in 13 points, sophomore guard Jaylen Fornes collected 10 markers and senior forward Marcus Bryan wound up with his second double-double of the season on 10 points and 11 boards.
After the two teams battled to a 79-all draw in regulation, redshirt junior guard JaQuel Richmond opened overtime with a 10-footer on the left wing to put the Seahawks on top, 81-79. The game still hung in the balance until the Pirates gained some separation around the three-minute mark of the sudden death period.
Talley’s basket with 3:26 gave the Seahawks an 83-82 edge, but ECU strung together six consecutive points and a pair of free throws by Tyson with 2:16 remaining pushed the Pirates ahead, 88-83. ECU scored 11 of the final 16 points to win only the second overtime game in the 65-game series.
Cacok was a one-man wrecking crew in the second half as the Seahawks rallied to force sudden death after trailing by six points, 48-42, at intermission. He scored 19 points in the second half on 9-of-12 shooting to help the Seahawks pull even.
The Seahawks bolted out of the gate behind Fornes and Talley, scoring the first 10 points on the game, capped by a pair of free throws by Talley at the 17:17 mark.
The Pirates finally got on the board with 17:02 left in the first half on a free throw by Craig and then heated up from outside to climb back in it. A bank shot by Fleming sliced the deficit to 15-12 with just under 15 minutes remaining and ECU registered its first lead of the night at 6:12 on a jumper by Spasojevic over Cacok.
After UNCW’s Ty Taylor knotted the score at 42-all with under two minutes remaining, ECU knocked down the final six points of the half and carried a six-point lead into the break after Tyson canned a 10-footer along the left baseline at the buzzer. Tyson wound up with 16 points in the first 20 minutes and Cacok had 14 points on a perfect 6-of-6 from the field and 2-of-3 at the charity stripe.
The Seahawks break for exams before returning to the floor on Sunday, Dec. 10, with a 5 p.m. clash at LSU. It will be UNCW’s first meeting with the Tigers since 1984.