TOWSON, Maryland - Senior forward Robert Nwankwo shook off a sluggish first half with 12 points and 11 rebounds down the stretch to power Towson over UNCW, 66-61, in Colonial Athletic Association men's basketball action Saturday at the Towson Center.
The Tigers snapped a 41-game losing streak overall and a 30-game string in conference play to improve to 1-22 and 1-10. The Seahawks dropped their third straight contest and sixth in seven outings to fall to 8-13 and 4-7.in the circuit.
Nwankwo, who did not start for the first time this season, was not the only thorn in UNCW's side in the afternoon matinee. Sophomore forward Marcus Damas led all scorers with 18 points, freshman forward Deon Jones scored 15 and sophomore forward Enrique Gumbs contributed 11.
Sophomore forward Donte Morales was high man for the Seahawks with 17 points, Junior forward Keith Rendleman added 16 points and 10 rebounds for his 12th double of the season and the 18th of his career.
Towson trailed, 32-29, at halftime was still behind, 38-34, when Nwankwo and Damas ignited Pat Skerry's club. Nwankwo scored on a layup and Damas sank a long triple and spinning layup to push the Tigers out front, 43-38, with13:19 left.
After Morales canned a long three-ball along the right wing, Nwankwo converted an alley oop dunk and then Damas capped a 13-3 run with two free throws at 11:33 for a 47-41 edge.
With the game knotted at 52-all, the Tigers used another rally to break away again. Damas connected on a floater in the lane and Nwankwo added three free throws to extend the margin to 60-52 with 1:33 left on the clock.
UNCW crawled back into it with some timely long range shooting and a triple by Trevor Deloach closed the gap to 61-59 with 45 seconds left. After Jones made a free throw, Rendleman hit a layup to bring the Seahawks to within, 62-61.
The Seahawks missed an opportunity to retake the lead with 20 seconds left when Rendleman missed a pair of free throws. Damas raced down for a slam dunk at the other end with nine second left and the Tigers swarmed Adam Smith when the rookie sharpshooter attempted a game-tying three-pointer with five ticks left.
In their lone meeting of the regular season, the Tigers jumped out quickly on the Seahawks, building a 13-5 lead over the first five minutes. Damas had the hot hand early and dropped in a pair of free throws with 14:38 remaining in the half to give Towson a 13-5 advantage.
But the Seahawks applied full-court pressure and reeled off nine consecutive points as part of a 21-6 run to take control. Rendleman did most of the damage, scoring six straight points to get things going and a layup by Morales at 4:34 gave UNCW its largest lead of the half, 26-19.
Still trailing by seven points, Towson, which had 10 second-chance points in the first 20 minutes, used a late surge in the opening period to narrow the lead to 32-29 at intermission. Back-to-back layups by Jones and Will Adams chopped the deficit to three points at the break.
The Seahawks return to Wilmington to open a two-game homestand on Wednesday with Georgia State at 7 p.m. The Tigers visit Hofstra on Wednesday for a 7 p.m. start at Hofstra Arena.
GAME NOTES: Only four players scored in the first half for UNCW...Towson outscored UNCW, 21-4, at the free throw line...UNCW's starting guards went 4-for-20 from the floor...Towson built a 41-29 advantage on the glass...Robert Nwankwo, TU's leading scorer and rebounder, did not score and had three rebounds in the first half...The Seahawks are now 4-8 away from home this season, including 2-4 in CAA away games...Towson has had 20 double digit losses this season... UNCW entered the day in eighth place in theCAA...The Seahawks trimmed the Tigers, 95-93, in overtime last season at the Towson Center...UNCW owns a 16-10 advantage in the series and stands 6-7 at the Towson Center...The UNCW women's basketball team attended the game, which was carried on ESPN3.com...Both coaching staffs wore tennis shoes as part of the annual Coaches vs. Cancer Suits and Sneakers game conducted by the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Basketball Coaches.