JOHNSON CITY, Tennessee – Junior forward Chris Flemmings paced five players in double figures with 18 points as UNCW stayed perfect in 2015-16 with a convincing 94-73 victory over East Tennessee State Saturday in a non-conference men’s basketball game at the Freedom Hall Civic Center.
The Seahawks, making their road debut in 2015-16, bolted out of the gate early and thoroughly dominated the Bucs of the Southern Conference to become the first Seahawk team since the 1995 club to start the season at 4-0. ETSU dropped its second straight and stands 3-3.
“I’m proud of our guys today and I’m happy for these young men,” said Kevin Keatts, UNCW’s second-year head coach. “We just took what the defense gave us. Since I’ve been coaching here, this is probably the hardest we’ve played in the first half. We got transition buckets, our press was very effective and our energy was great in the first half.”
The slender Flemmings, a transfer from NCAA Division II Barton, drained 8-of-13 field goal attempts in just 24 minutes to anchor UNCW’s balanced attack. Freshman guard C.J. Bryce added 14 points, freshman forward Devontae Cacok scored 13, sophomore playmaker Jordon Talley contributed 12 and sophomore forward Marcus Bryan collected 10 as 11 Seahawks reached the scoring column.
ETSU’s high-flying backcourt combo of T.J. Cromer and Ge’Lawn Guin paced the Bucs with 20 and 18 points. The Bucs could not overcome 21 turnovers and domination on the boards by the Seahawks, however, in losing at home for the first time this season.
In the first meeting between the two teams since 2003, the Seahawks jumped on the Bucs quickly behind hot shooting and balanced scoring to build a 48-37 lead at the break. The Seahawks then poured it on down the stretch, leading by as many as 28 points to secure their first road win of the new campaign.
UNCW shot a season-high 58.6 percent from the floor on the day, converting 41-of-70 field goals, including 66.7 percent in the second half.
After building a 48-37 advantage at halftime, the Seahawks watched as the Bucs climbed within eight points on Guin’s three-pointer just 24 seconds into the second half. But Flemmings and Bryce keyed a stifling 16-0 run and the lead ballooned back to 64-40 on a triple by Flemmings at 15:24.
UNCW later registered its largest lead of the game, 87-59, on freshman Trey Grundy’s bucket with 4:14 remaining.
With Flemmings and Bryan leading the way, UNCW was ahead by as many as 18 points in the first period after forcing 12 turnovers to grab control early.
After reserve forward Benny Luflie’s layup cut the lead to 32-25, the Seahawks reeled off 11 unanswered points and the margin swelled to 43-25 on Cacok’s layup on the right side. The advantage was still 18 points until the Bucs closed out the half on a strong note, scoring the final seven points of the period to keep close.
The Seahawks return home to entertain NCAA Division II Coker on Wednesday in a 7 p.m. tip-off at Trask Coliseum. It will be UNCW’s last home game before the Christmas holiday.
GAME NOTES: The Seahawks built a 39-24 advantage on the glass and 11-4 in offensive rebounding…Redshirt senior guard Craig Ponder led the Seahawks with four assists…The Seahawks scored 50 points in the paint…UNCW’s bench collected 34 points…UNCW led for all but 1:05 of the contest…The Seahawks improved to 19-17 lifetime against the Southern Conference…Five different players banged home a three-pointer…The Seahawks were whistled for twice as many personal fouls (24/12) as the Bucs…Cacok led the Seahawks with seven rebounds…Eight different players saw at least 15 minutes of action for the Seahawks…UNCW evened the all-time series with ETSU at 5-all.