UNCW to open road trip on Thursday at Drexel



PHILADELPHIA, PA (UNCWSPORTS.COM) — Surging UNCW heads to the chilly northeast this week to face two of the Colonial Athletic Association’s three new head coaches in a key men’s basketball swing to Drexel and Delaware.

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UNCW (13-2, 2-0) has won two in a row and 10 of its last 11 games entering Thursday’s 7 p.m. tip-off against the Dragons at the Daskalakis Center, one of the league’s coziest venues and the home of first-year skipper Zach Spiker.

Following Thursday’s clash in West Philly, the Seahawks move down to Newark, Del., to take on Delaware and new coach Martin Oglesby and the Blue Hens in another 7 p.m. start at the Bob Carpenter Center.

“It will be a tough road trip,” said third-year UNCW Head Coach Kevin Keatts. “Both coaches have done a tremendous job with their teams. Drexel is playing an up-and-down style that’s a lot different than in the past. They’ve done a very good job with their personnel and can score with anybody in the league. Delaware is also getting a lot of their guys involved more.”

The Dragons (6-9, 0-2) have dropped three in a row since beating Kean and Quinnipiac before the Christmas holiday. Drexel has fallen to James Madison (78-68) and Northeastern (75-70, OT) in league play.

Senior forward Rodney Williams has excelled with the coaching change at Drexel. The 6-7, 225-pound performer leads the team in scoring (16.7) and rebounding (6.8) and ranks third in the CAA in point production behind NU’s T.J. Williams (21.3) and Seahawk sophomore C.J. Bryce (16.7).

The Dragons are 2-3 in home games this season and feature one of the most dynamic freshmen in the league in rookie guard Kurk Lee, who is collecting 14.1 points, 3.7 rebounds and 5.2 assists each outing.

UNCW, meanwhile, continues to roll up some impressive numbers at the midway point of the season. The Seahawks lead the CAA in seven statistical categories, including scoring offense (86.3) and scoring margin (+12.3).

“We’ve been very fortunate to get off to a good start in the league. When you play conference games, it’s tough. Going on the road in this conference is challenging, but we’ve been successful on the road and we’re lucky to have some veteran guys.

“Most of our wins have been on the road, so it’s been a little different for us. We haven’t played many home games. We have some guys who have been through the ringer and are used to playing away from home.”

UNCW’s toughness in unfamiliar territory is backed up by the numbers. The Seahawks are 20-17 in true road games during Keatts’ time in Wilmington and 28-20 in all games played away from Trask Coliseum. In CAA games, the Seahawks are 13-6 in true road outings and 17-8 in road/neutral combined contests.

Powered by Bryce at 17.7 ppg, four Seahawks are averaging in double figures in 2016-17. Senior guard Chris Flemmings (15.9), senior guard Denzel Ingram (14.3) and sophomore forward Devontae Cacok (13.1) give Keatts plenty of offensive punch. Graduate guard Ambrose Mosley (7.4), junior guard Jordon Talley (7.0) and sophomore guard JaQuel Richmond (6.6) provide solid backup.

“Our sophomores are really having a good year,” said Keatts. “I knew Chris was a very good player and Denzel was very good, but we have to give a lot of credit to C.J. and Devontae because they have developed into good players through hard work. The emergence of those two guys has helped us become a better team.”

The Seahawks, who are tied with Hofstra for the most wins in the CAA over the last three seasons, lead the series with Drexel, 15-12, but trails at the Daskalakis Center by a 7-5 margin. Keatts stands 3-1 against the Dragons after a sweep one year ago.

In the series, UNCW has won three of the last four games between the two teams and snapped a three-game losing streak in Philly with last year’s 77-71 verdict on Jan. 23 at the Dak.

UNCW has 16 games remaining in the regular season – eight each at home and on the road – but plays five CAA roadies during the month of January.

Live Seahawk Digital Network (SDN) coverage of Thursday’s UNCW-Drexel contest begins with the pregame show at 6:45 p.m. Visit UNCWsports.com/SDN for live 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).