A late flurry of three-pointers at the end of regulation wasn't enough to make up for a slow start as the Wilmington University men's basketball team fell to Caldwell, 75-71, in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference and regular season finale on Saturday, spoiling Senior Day at the WU Athletics Complex.
The Wildcats (9-19, 8-11 CACC) only scored 22 points and shot 28.1 percent from the floor in the first half but nearly made a miraculous comeback late in the game, scoring 49 points in all in the second half.
Trailing Caldwell (14-12, 10-8 CACC) by 15 points with 2:29 to play, the Wildcats started hitting three-pointers, thanks in large part to sophomore Tyaire Ponzo-Meek. The guard hit three three-pointers in the final 1:16 of action to crawl to within 74-71 with a few seconds remaining. But it was a missed three-pointer by with 18 seconds left when trailing by five that proved to be the dagger for the Wildcats.
Despite only scoring 22 points in the first half, the Wildcats kept the Cougars within arms' reach by only allowing 30 points by the halftime break. Caldwell held as large as an 11-point lead in the first half before the visitors went into the halftime break up by eight points.
A quick start to the second half brought the Wildcats to within five at 32-27, as Kevin Ohen started the half with a pair of free throws and a three-pointer. But Caldwell stemmed the tide and grew the margin back out to 10-points before holding the Wildcats could strike again.
Layups by Ta'Vaune Griffin and Valentino Thompson had the Wildcats to within 46-42 with 10:49 to play, but the Cougars quickly responded with an 8-0 run, hitting back-to-back three-points to open a 54-42 lead with 9:07 to play.
The Caldwell lead grew to as large as 15 points with 2:29 to play before the Wildcats attempted the late game comeback.
Wilmington's five seniors were honored prior to the game on Saturday while all-five seniors also earned a start in the contest. Ohen led the senior class with 16 points while Thompson added nine second-half points. Tyrik Gass scored four points on a pair of offensive put-backs in the first half while Rashaun Rasheed scored six points. Prophet Kates grabbed three rebounds to round out the 2015 senior class for the Wildcats.
Ponzo-Meek led the Wildcats with 18 points but needed 7-of-20 shooting to get it. He shot 4-of-8 from beyond the three-point arc while also dishing out three assists.
The Wildcats shot 44.7 percent in the second half to finish at 37.1 percent, but could not match the production of Caldwell's Michael Balkovic's 27 points and 13 rebounds, shooting 10-of-11 from the floor for the game. The Cougars shot 50.0 percent (22-of-44) from the floor and 5-of-12 from beyond the three-point arc for the game as a team.
The Wildcats' season isn't done yet, however, as they clinched a playoff spot on Tuesday night with the win over Goldey-Beacom. Wilmington will travel to CACC North Division Regular Season Champion Dominican on Saturday, February 28 for a CACC Tournament Quarterfinal matchup.
Caldwell also clinched a spot in the CACC Tournament on Saturday with the win, but still have one game left to determine its seed.