RICHMOND, Virginia - Junior guard Chris Fouch led a balanced scoring attack with 14 points as top-seeded Drexel reeled off its 18th straight win by turning back stubborn UNCW, 59-47, in the quarterfinals of the 2012 Colonial Athletic Association Men's Basketball Championship Saturday at the Richmond Coliseum.
The Dragons improved to 26-5 on the season by defeating the Seahawks for the second time this year. Drexel will face the winner of the quarterfinal matchup between Old Dominion and Delaware.
The Seahawks closed out their second season under Buzz Peterson with a 10-21 record.
"We knew it was going to be a very physical ball game," said Peterson. :"We tried to prepare for it. We gave up some offensive rebounds in the second half. They're a tough matchup for anybody in this league. They're a tough out."
Fouch, inserted into the starting lineup with the suspension of Derrick Thomas, responded by leading four Dragons in double figures, including 12 points in the first half. Senior forward Samme Givens and sophomore playmaker Frantz Massenat scored 11 points apiece and CAA Rookie-of-the-Year Damion Lee had 10.
Sophomore guard Donte Morales paced UNCW with 13 points, while sophomore guard Tanner Milson and junior forward Keith Rendleman collected 11 and 10 points. Rendleman became the 21st player in school history to reach the 1,000-point plateau when he swished an eight-footer along the right baseline with eight minutes left in the first half.
In the first of four quarterfinal matchups on the day, Drexel inched out a five-point halftime lead behind Fouch's strong first half. The Dragons then stretched out the lead with a strong start in the final period, outscoring the Seahawks, 18-8, over the first eight minutes to gain some separation.
After reserve forward Shane Reybold made a bucket in the paint for UNCW to slice the lead to 37-30, the Dragons used an 8-0 spurt to push the lead to 45-30, capped by a hook shot by Givens at the 12-minute mark.
The lead ballooned to 18 points, 51-33, with 9:50 remaining on Lee's spinning layup. UNCW managed to close the gap to 10 points on a pair of Rendleman free throws with 2:24 left, but the Dragons held the Seahawks scoreless the rest of the way.
The Dragons played a near flawless floor game in the first half, committing just one turnover, but couldn't shake the pesky Seahawks before settling for a 27-22 halftime advantage.
The Dragons came out firing and made four of their first five field goal attempts to grab a quick 9-4 edge. Fouch sank a triple in front of the Seahawk bench with 16:56 and the regular season champions were off to a fast start.
But the Seahawks regrouped to take a 10-9 edge on a conventional three-point play by Rendleman at 14:37 and Morales converted a layup with just over 10 minutes left in the opening period to give the Seahawks a 16-13 lead.
Adam Smith's nifty layup kept the score close, 21-20, at the five-minute mark before the Dragons closed out the final five minutes of the first half on a strong note. Fouch canned a layup and Ruffin connected on a hook shot over Rendleman to push the lead to 25-20 and Massenat's driving layup with three seconds left staked the Dragons to a 27-22 lead at intermission.
GAME NOTES: The Seahawks are now 32-24 lifetime in the CAA Tournament...Drexel won for the first time against the Seahawks in the CAA Tournament after losing in 2003 and 2004....Drexel topped UNCW for the sixth time in the last eight meetings...UNCW still leads the all-time series, 12-8...The Seahawks are 12-8 against Drexel's Bruiser Flint, the league's longest tenured coach...Keith Rendleman did not have a rebound for the first time this season...The Seahawks turned the ball over 11 times, while the Dragons had six turnovers...Drexel won the rebounding battle, 35-32...The Dragons went just 3-for-17 behind the arc...Tanner Milson led the Seahawks with three assists...UNCW shot 34.7 percent from the field, including just 26.9 percent in the second half.