UNCW basketball loses chance to win qualifiers, but another streak is coming

All things come to an end.

This UNCW basketball winning streak was going to stop one way or another; the top level of the Colonial Athletic Association has enough stars and long drives from Port City that it would have happened somewhere.

The Seahawks came out of a deafening Trask Coliseum on Wednesday night with a 71-69 loss to No. 22 Charleston, and there’s no disrespect in that. They also know that they missed a golden opportunity to stretch their 13-win streak a little further.

“In the second half, we went out there and played how we could, how I expected us to,” said coach Takayo Siddle. “At key moments, we made mistakes. They made us pay for them. We had our chance to win the game more than once. … We just have to be better at decisive moments.”

UNCW took a 69-64 lead with 2:24 left, steadily erasing a 15-point first-half deficit and setting up for another historic moment at home and the top seed in the CAA.

And then it disappeared.

“We learned that we have to get off to a faster start. The game was catching up,” UNCW forward Trazarien White said. “And when we have a big lead, we don’t beat each other. We had a bit of an advantage, we could have increased it and we didn’t recover and they hit triples”.

For all the good things the Seahawks have done this year, and they’ve done a lot, they still haven’t figured out the endgame. Big second-half leads have fallen by the wayside against High Point and North Carolina A&T. The chances of posting blowouts have been lost.

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But when you’re dissecting a group that’s 14-4 and a couple of missed layups away from their second win on the show against a ranked team, that’s a position UNCW wants to be in.

“We talked about the external factors of the game, not letting it affect us, and I thought that the chaos around us was not allowing us to focus as much as we needed to,” Siddle said. “They came out and punched us in the mouth. They were much tougher (in the first half), I thought they beat us.”

That definitely changed after halftime, forcing the 5,250 crowd to go hoarse in support. The diminutive Jamarii Thomas continually found himself among much larger players and took the ball. White had seven of his eight rebounds in the second half.

If UNCW collects two of the half-dozen missed shots around the rim it normally does, we’re hailing a terrific comeback and defensive effort that sent Charleston to a 1-for-20 start from the field in the second half.

But they didn’t, and we can’t. Siddle knows that no one feels sorry for the Seahawks either. And the rebound game is in less than 72 hours. UNCW can start a new streak on Saturday against William & Mary: two straight losses or the start of another winning streak.

With this team, bet on the latter.

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“We lost the game last year that ended our streak, came back and won a regular-season title,” Siddle said. “So that loss doesn’t define our season, it doesn’t define who we are.”

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