WILMINGTON, NC (UNCWSPORTS.COM) — The 500th men’s basketball game in Trask Coliseum’s history will be a welcome sight for the UNCW Seahawks, who have played seven of their first 10 games of the new season away from their friendly home environment.
Still, UNCW has fashioned a 9-1 record – the best in school history – heading into a 2 p.m. tip-off with Big South Conference member Radford. The Seahawks are shooting for their seventh straight victory following Wednesday’s 96-75 triumph at Campbell.
The Highlanders, 4-5, have not played since beating Colonial Athletic Association member Elon, 68-56, on Dec. 10 at the Dedmon Center in Radford, Va.
“It’s good to be home close to Christmas,” said Kevin Keatts, UNCW’s ultra-successful head coach. “Our guys are playing good basketball. We have a very good team coming in here and they are very capable of winning. We have to do a good job of focusing on Radford and being ready to play. Being 9-1 is very special. We’ve done a great job of staying in the moment. Our main focus is trying to take it one game at a time.”
The Seahawks, who have not lost in 22 days since a narrow 68-63 decision to Middle Tennessee State in Nashville, have been red-hot lately, averaging 88.6 points per game overall and 100.4 ppg over their last five outings, with contributions up and down the lineup.
“We’re playing great team basketball right now,” Keatts emphasized. “We’re sharing the basketball. On any given night, somebody else can lead us in scoring. The reason why we’re having some early success is because of the way we’re sharing the basketball.”
The Seahawks have won nearly 70 percent of their games in the 5,200-seat facility since its opening on Nov. 26, 1977, amassing a 345-154 record in 40 seasons of competition. The first 500 fans through the gates will receive a “Trask Coliseum Commemorative Rally Towel” earmarked for the occasion.
UNCW is playing at home game for only the fourth time this season. The Seahawks have defeated Claflin, East Tennessee State and Pfeiffer in the Port City by an average of 22.7 ppg. Keatts has built a decided home court advantage since arriving three years ago with a 25-4 record, including victories in nine of his last 10 home contests dating back to last season.
Senior guard Chris Flemmings, the CAA’s Preseason Player-of-the-Year, is off to a strong start in his final season. The Cary, N.C., product leads four players in double figures with 18.2 points per game and is also chipping in 6.0 rebounds and 1.7 assists each outing. Sophomore standout C.J. Bryce is averaging 17.8 ppg, sophomore forward Devontae Cacok is collecting 13.9 ppg and 10.0 rpg and senior guard Denzel Ingram is contributing 12.1 ppg in UNCW’s four-pronged attack.
UNCW and Radford have split the eight games in the series, with each team winning on its home floor. The Highlanders claimed last year’s meeting, 69-67, on Kion Brown’s half-hook at the buzzer, completing a second-half comeback for Mike Jones and his club.
The Highlanders don’t feature a double digit scorer, but will bring a balanced offensive attack to the coast. Sophomore forward Ed Polite, Jr., leads the team with 9.0 points and 9.8 rebounds per game and redshirt junior guard Justin Cousin is chipping in 8.2 points and 2.7 assists.
Polite and Cousin played key roles in RU’s win over Elon. The Highlanders, who led most of the game, held the Phoenix to their lowest scoring output of the season and 26 points below their 82-plus scoring average. Polite notched his third double-double of the season with 14 points and 15 rebounds, while Cousin shared game-high honors with 14 points with four assists.
“In a sense,” Keatts said, “they’re a mirror image of us. They are a pressing, running team that will try to disrupt you. It won’t be quite as fast as the Pfeiffer game, but I do expect an up-tempo game.”
The Seahawks wrap up their pre-Christmas schedule on Tuesday with a 6:30 p.m. matchup against regional rival East Carolina at Trask Coliseum.
Live Seahawk Digital Network (SDN) coverage of Saturday’s UNCW-RU contest begins with the pregame show at 1:45 p.m. Simply visit UNCWsports.com/SDN for live video and audio coverage. In addition, a radio broadcast of the game can be heard on WLSG 94.1 FM and 1340 AM (Wilmington) and WSME 97.1 FM and 1120 AM (Jacksonville).
Season tickets remain available by visiting the UNCW Athletics Ticket Office in Trask Coliseum, calling 1-800-808-UNCW or clicking on the Tickets button via UNCWSports.com. Tickets start as low as $99, with 5 and 8-game mini-plans also available.
For more information on the UNCW men’s basketball team throughout the 2016-17 season, visit UNCWsports.com and click on the Men’s Basketball button. Additional information is also available on UNCW’s social media channels: Facebook (UNCW Men’s Basketball), Twitter (@UNCWmenshoops), Instagram (UNCWBasketball).
Memorable Games At Trask Coliseum
Wake Forest 83, UNCW 79 (Nov. 26, 1977)
In the first game ever played at Trask Coliseum, 17th-ranked Wake Forest overcomes a determined UNCW squad, 83-79, before a sellout crowd. ACC Player-of-the-Year Rod Griffin leads the way for the Demon Deacons.
UNCW 66, George Mason 64 (Jan. 5, 1985)
UNCW enjoys a successful debut in the Colonial Athletic Association by nipping visiting George Mason, 66-64, at Trask Coliseum. Brian Rowsom scores 21 points and grabs 11 rebounds in the victory.
UNCW 58, East Carolina 56 (Feb. 7, 1985)
In their first televised conference contest, the Seahawks outlast rival East Carolina, 58-56, in a thriller. George Durham is the hero, converting a game-tying three-point play and then the winning layup in the waning seconds.
Navy 67, UNCW 66 (Jan. 31, 1987)
In a battle of the Colonial’s premier big men, Navy’s David Robinson outduels UNCW’s Brian Rowsom in a classic matchup, 67-66. Robinson nails a 15-footer at the buzzer to lift the Midshipmen over the Seahawks.
UNCW 91, Auburn 80 (Dec. 19, 1992)
Powered by tournament most valuable player Tim Shaw’s 33 points, the Seahawks shock Southeastern Conference member Auburn, 91-80, for the title of the inaugural USAir East Coast Basketball Classic at Trask Coliseum.
UNCW 57, College of Charleston 55, 2OT (Feb. 22, 2014)
In the first CAA matchup at Trask Coliseum between the two rivals, the Seahawks prevail in a wild affair. Graduate guard Ben Eblen swishes a three-pointer – his only basket of the game – with 40 seconds left in the second overtime to lift UNCW to the thrilling win.
UNCW 74, Delaware 73 (Jan. 8, 2015)
UNCW erases a six-point deficit in the final 42 seconds of regulation to force overtime and slips past Delaware, 74-73, to give Kevin Keatts his first conference home victory. Senior guard Freddie Jackson collects 20 points, eight rebounds and five assists in 45 minutes on the floor.
UNCW 58, College of Charleston 45 (Feb. 11, 2015)
Jordon Talley and Addison Spruill key a suffocating 22-0 run down the stretch as UNCW rallies from nine points down to sweep the regular season series from the Cougars. Talley winds up with 18 points and Spruill has 16 for the Seahawks, who hold CofC to 15 points in the second half.
UNCW 97, William & Mary 94, OT (Jan. 16, 2016)
Junior guard Denzel Ingram erupts for a career-high 30 points and UNCW shoots 54.1 percent from the floor in a thriller at Trask Coliseum. No more than six points separates the two teams, with 11 ties and 19 lead changes.
UNCW 126, Pfeiffer 113 (Dec. 3, 2016)
The Seahawks set 10 school records behind Chris Flemmings and Devontae Cacok to give Kevin Keatts his 50th NCAA Division I coaching victory in a frenetic affair. Flemmings and Cacok each collect 34 points and Cacok adds 19 rebounds and 11 dunks in the high-scoring game.