CHARLESTON, South Carolina (UNCWSports.com) – Northeastern used balanced scoring and an air-tight defense to deny UNCW’s bid for a third straight conference title with a 79-52 victory over the Seahawks in the semifinals of the 2018 Colonial Athletic Association Men’s Basketball Championship on Monday night at the North Charleston Coliseum.
The two-time defending CAA champions had their seven-game tournament winning streak snapped and finished the season at 11-21. The Huskies, 23-9, will face No. 1 seed Charleston in Tuesday’s championship game at 7 p.m.
Junior forward Devontae Cacok scored 15 points to pace the Seahawks and just missed his 23rd double-double of the season with nine rebounds. Sophomore guard Jaylen Fornes added 11 points for UNCW, which shot just 29.9 percent on the night.
Junior guard Vasa Pusica of Northeastern led all scorers in the contest with 20 points, including 15 in the first half, on 8-for-16 shooting. Sophomore guard Shawn Occeus chipped in 18 points, freshman forward Tomas Murphy scored 11 and sophomore guard Maxime Boursiquot finished with 10.
“Unfortunately, it wasn’t much of a game tonight,” said C.B. McGrath, who concluded his first season as UNCW’s head coach. “Northeastern just took it to us from the go. We didn’t have much left in the tank to battle back.
“You have to give them credit. They’re a very good basketball team. Their defense really cracked down and they were too good tonight. They had a heckuva basketball game and best of luck to them.”
The Huskies, who won have eight in a row, carved out a 36-27 advantage at halftime and squashed UNCW’s comeback bid with a quick start in the second half.
The lanky Occeus opened the final period with a jumper in the paint and two minutes later, Boursiquot sliced through the lane for at 17:07 to extend the margin to 45-31.
The Seahawks stayed within striking distance until the Huskies reeled off 16 unanswered points midway through the second half to put the game away early. Occeus scored seven points in the spurt as the Huskies increased their lead to 66-37.
The Huskies then posted their largest lead of the game, 76-46, when reserve Derrick Cook made a driving layup with 2:33 left to play.
UNCW jumped out to a 7-2 edge after three minutes before the Huskies got untracked. With the score tied at 17-all, Pusica ignited a 15-0 spurt over a 3:58 stretch.
Occeus started the rally with a triple in the right corner and a Boursiquot layup with 4:59 left in the first half staked the Huskies to a 32-17 bulge.
The lead ballooned to 36-20 with just over three minutes to go before the Seahawks scored the final seven points of the half to get the lead under double figures at 36-27 before halftime.
Pusica had a big first half for the Huskies with 15 points on 6-for-12 shooting, including 3-for-6 from deep. Fornes wound up with 11 points for the Seahawks, who shot just 30.3 percent in the first 20 minutes.
It was the final appearance for UNCW senior Jordon Talley, who wrapped up his career by playing in 125 games and scoring 1,306 points – only the ninth Seahawk player to eclipse 1,300 points.
GAME NOTES: Overall, No. 6 seeds are now 7-26 in CAA Tournament games and 2-6 in the semifinals…UNCW has made 22 appearances in the semifinals and the next closest team has 17…NU owns a 13-12 edge in the 25-game series with the Seahawks and evened its record vs. UNCW to 2-2 in CAA Tournament…The Huskies completed a sweep of all three games this season after taking both matchups in overtime during the regular campaign….The two teams battled in the semifinals for the third time in four years…It was only the fourth meeting in March between the two clubs.