UNC Wilmington coach Kevin Keatts learned a thing or two about press defenses during his three seasons at Louisville.
Of course Keatts had one of the best teachers in Louisville — hall of fame head coach Rick Pitino. No doubt Pitino would have been pleased to watch his former pupil in action Wednesday night against the College of Charleston.
Addison Spruill scored 11 points and hauled down 13 rebounds and Jordan Talley added 11 points as the Seahawks’ defense forced 20 College of Charleston turnovers in a 58-56 overtime victory at TD Arena.
Playing without senior guard Anthony Stitt, who is out of the lineup after having knee surgery last week, the Seahawks wore down Cougars sophomore guard Joe Chealey. As the primary ball handler against the UNCW press, Chealey played a career-high 43 minutes, and the constant pressure took its toll on the Orlando, Fla., native. Chealey, who had been averaging 19 points in his last three games, was held to eight points and three assists and turned the ball over five times.
Trailing by a point in the final seconds in overtime, Chealey had a chance to win the game, but his layup attempt with three seconds left was blocked by Seahawks center Cedrick Williams.
“(Chealey) had that look in his eye like he was going to take the shot,” Williams said. “I just slid off my man to help and made the block.”
The ball bounced off of Chealey’s hands and out of bounds, giving the Seahawks the ball with less than a second to play.
“Joe got to the front of the rim and had a chance to lay it up or give it to Adjehi (Baru),” College of Charleston coach Earl Grant said. “I think fatigue bothered him. He was at the rim and it just didn’t go in. He had played so many minutes and I think the press wore him down.”
Grant said the Cougars worked on breaking the Seahawks’ press for two days during practice.
“We didn’t handle it well,” Grant said. “The only other team to press us as much was West Virginia and we didn’t handle that well either. You don’t dribble out of a press, you pass out of press. You find an open man, you look up the floor and you attack. We got some layups early.
“I think Joe just put a lot of pressure on himself. He felt like he had to do it by himself, so instead of passing out of some tough situations, he dribbled. At times, we just didn’t make good decisions.”
In a game that featured runs by both teams, 12 lead changes and long scoring droughts, the Cougars had a chance to take control in the second half. Leading by seven points early in the second half, the Cougars could never pull away from the Seahawks.
“We’ve got to make a couple of shots in that situation,” said Cougars guard Canyon Barry, who led the Cougars with 16 points, 10 rebounds and three assists. “We had our chances to win. I felt like we beat ourselves tonight.”
The Cougars will take on Drexel at noon on Saturday.