RECAP: Virginia thwarts upset bid from UNC-Wilmington, advances to Second Round with 76-71 win

Virginia used a late first half run to eliminate the 15-point lead for the Seahawks, and they held on in the second for the 76-71 victory. (Source: Virginia Men’s Basketball)

ORLANDO, Fla. — It may have been the second game of the NCAA Tournament, but it also provided fans with another exciting finish.

Coming into the 2017 NCAA Tournament, the UNC Wilmington Seahawks were a trendy upset pick against the Virginia Cavaliers.

The Seahawks came into the afternoon averaging a shade over 85 points per contest, good for 10th in the nation. On the flip side, Virginia makes their mark on the defensive end of the floor.

Early on, it looked as though the Seahawks’ offense was going to break the defense of the Cavaliers. An early 16-2 run gave UNC Wilmington a 26-11 lead with 7:25 to play in the opening frame.

Virginia head coach Tony Bennett made a lineup change, going with a smaller lineup. It worked.

The Seahawks were held without a field goal the rest of the way in the first half, and the Cavaliers took a one-point lead into the break. In the second half, the teams went back and forth, but it was the play of a senior guard that pushed Virginia to the win.

London Perrantes assumed the role of hero, hitting a pair of crucial runners to keep Virginia in the lead. In the end, the Cavaliers put to rest any doubts, and advanced to the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament with a 76-71 victory.

Perrantes led all scorers with 24 points, on 9-of-14 shooting. Canadian Marial Shayok put up 23 points off the bench in the win.

Four players reached double-figures for the Seahawks. Ambrose Mosley was a perfect 5-of-5 from the field, and 4-of-4 from three point range, for 14 points. Chris Flemmings scored a team-best 18 points.

A big factor in the early 15-point lead for the Seahawks was their ability to capitalize on turnovers by Virginia. They scored 12 points off of turnovers in the first 13 minutes of the game.

The rest of the way, they recorded zero.

Denzel Ingram hit a three to give the Seahawks a 26-11 lead in the first half. From there, the Cavaliers closed the first half on a 19-2 run of their own to take back all the momentum. Five different Cavaliers recorded a basket during the run.

Virginia pushed their lead to five point early in the second half, but the Seahawks weren’t going to go down without a fight. They clawed their way back, and took a two-point lead of their own, at 40-38, with 15:40 to play.

Once the Cavaliers retook the lead, they never let it go the rest of the way. The Seahawks got close on a few occasions, and a layup from Devontae Cacok with under a minute to play cut the deficit down to just two.

That was as close as they would get.

Shayok hit a jumper, and Perrantes added a free throw in the final minute to seal the deal. Virginia was a trendy pick to get upset in the First Round, but they silenced their critics with a 76-71 win over UNC Wilmington.

With the win, the Virginia Cavaliers (23-10) will now take on either the East Tennessee State Buccaneers (13-seed) or the Florida Gators (4-seed) in the Second Round.

Despite the loss, the UNC Wilmington Seahawks (29-6) had a successful season all around. They will be one of the top teams in the conference next season, despite losing three key seniors. Head coach Kevin Keatts will likely be looked at as a possible replacement for some of the vacant positions at power conference programs.

Devontae Cacok finished the season shooting 80.0% from the field, which is the best single-season mark in NCAA Division I history.

– T. Bennett