WILMINGTON, NC (UNCW Sports)–UNCW scored the first nine points of the second half and shot a robust 67.9 percent in the decisive final period to down Drexel, 76-65, in Colonial Athletic Association men’s basketball action on Thursday night in Trask Coliseum.
The Seahawks recorded their third straight home win and improved to 10-20 and 5-12 in CAA play. Drexel dropped to 13-17 and 6-11 in the CAA with its ninth loss in 10 games.
Freshman point guard Shykeim Phillips exploded for a career-high 20 points on a crispy 7-for-11 shooting and played 25 minutes without a turnover. Phillips was joined in double figures by junior guard Mike Okauru (16) and freshman guard Jake Boggs (11).
Junior forward James Butler notched a double-double (16 points and 12 rebounds) to lead Drexel, collecting his 19th double-double in 30 games. Sophomore guards Camren Wynter (13) and Coletrane Washington (11) also reached double digits.
“It was just a heckuva night,” said Rob Burke, UNCW’s interim head coach. “Our guys are really confident right now. It’s all about playing the full 40 minutes.
“We’re not a grind-it-out team. We need to create easy offense. We don’t have anything to lose. We are getting better. We need to continue to work defensively, so we can make a push in the CAA Tournament.”
Okauru and Phillips jumpstarted a second half that saw the Seahawks flip a 34-29 halftime deficit into a 38-34 lead with 17:33 to go in the game. Phillips capped a 9-0 run to open the half with a free throw and the Seahawks grabbed control.
Butler hit three straight jump shots to put the Dragons ahead, 44-42, with 14:33 remaining. But the Seahawks responded with a 15-4 run over a four-and-a-half-minute stretch to surge out to a 57-48 lead with 9:33 left in the game. Five different players scored in the spurt.
After the Dragons scored five straight points to close the gap to 57-53, the Seahawks used a 14-4 run to post the largest lead of the game, 71-57, forcing a Drexel timeout with 2:25 to play.
Drexel grabbed an early 16-7 lead following a 10-2 run fueled by a pair of three-pointers from Mate Okros and Matey Juric, giving the Dragons a nine-point lead at the 13:21 mark in the first half.
UNCW responded with a 12-4 spurt punctuated by a steal and one-handed slam dunk by Okauru to trim Drexel’s lead to 20-19 with just over eight minutes left in the opening period.
UNCW picked up its first lead of the game with 4:14 on the clock. Okauru scored four points in a 6-0 mini-run and an acrobatic tip-in by Boggs lifted the Seahawks to a 25-24 edge.
A pair of three-pointers by Washington catapulted the Dragons back in front, 34-27, with a minute in to go in the half. A dunk by UNCW’s John Bowen sliced the lead to five points before Jaylen Sims’ clean look at the buzzer hit the left of the rim as the first half expired.
The Seahawks conclude the regular season on Saturday with a matchup against Delaware at 7 p.m.