UNCW Press Release
LOUISVILLE, Kentucky – In line with the country’s most popular motion picture, the UNCW men’s basketball team mimicked “The Force Awakens” during its two-game appearance in Louisville’s 14th Billy Minardi Classic at the KFC Yum! Center.
The resilient Seahawks bid adieu to their recent three-game skid in a big way on Wednesday, recording their second straight double digit victory, this time 76-56 over Missouri-Kansas City, to improve to 7-3 this season.
“I thought we played well as a team,” said Kevin Keatts, UNCW’s second-year head coach. “Everybody that got into the game played with a lot of energy and played very well. We also shared the basketball well with 18 assists on 25 baskets
“We played these two games like we did the first five. We got back to playing UNCW basketball. I’m happy for the guys going into the Christmas break.”
In the first meeting between the two teams, the Seahawks, who throttled Utah Valley in their tourney opener on Tuesday, 102-77, controlled UMKC out of the Western Athletic Conference from the outset to build a comfortable 16-point lead at halftime and cruising down the stretch.
Senior guard Craig Ponder led the Seahawks with 14 points and received an award for being the team’s Outstanding Player in the event. Ponder scored 29 points, grabbed nine rebounds and had four steals in the two wins. Freshman guard C.J. Bryce added 12 points and four assists and junior guard Denzel Ingram had 11 points for UNCW.
Sophomore swing man Darius Austin was the lone player in double figures for the 7-6 Kangaroos with 16 points, including 3-for-3 from behind the arc.
UNCW carved out a working margin of 44-28 at intermission and watched as UMKC closed the gap to 10 points before the Seahawks put the game away.
After Ponder’s layup with 14:52 remaining staked UNCW to a 52-39 advantage, Austin drained his second straight triple to bring the Kangaroos within 52-42 with 14:38 left to play.
But UNCW junior guard Chris Flemmings sank a pair of free throw to start an 11-0 run over the next four minutes to stall UMKC’s rally and send the Seahawks into the Christmas holiday on a winning note. Sophomore forward Marcus Bryan capped the rally with a left-handed hook in the lane at 10:42 of the second half as UNCW extended the cushion to 63-42.
UNCW’s largest lead of the contest came with just 52 seconds remaining on a layup by reserve forward Kevin Hickson
In the first half, the Seahawks led the Kangaroos, 9-8, at the 14-minute mark before using an 18-2 run to gain some breathing room. Bryan started the spurt with a jumper on the left elbow and Ingram’s triple from the right corner ignited a 13-0 run that gave the Seahawks a 27-10 cushion.
The Seahawks enjoyed their largest lead of the first half with 2:13 on the clock when Ponder converted a conventional three-point play and the lead ballooned to 45-23.
UMKC scored the final five points of the first period to slice deficit to 45-28 at halftime after committing 10 turnovers and making just 1-of-7 from behind the arc in the opening 20 minutes.
The Seahawks break for the Christmas holiday before returning to the floor on Tuesday, Dec. 28, for an 8 p.m. matchup against longtime state rival Campbell. The Kangaroos, meanwhile, travel to Oklahoma State on Wednesday, Dec. 29, for their next contest.
GAME NOTES: Freshman forward Devontae Cacok made the first start of his collegiate career…Junior center C.J. Gettys made his first appearance of the season with 4:43 left in the first period and finished with one point and five rebounds… With nine turnovers, the Seahawks had less than 10 miscues for the third straight outing…All 14 players on the roster saw action and 11 scored for the Seahawks…UNCW owned a 44-35 rebounding advantage with 12 offensive boards…The Seahawks have featured nine different starting lineups this season…UMKC wound up 0-2 in the tourney after losing to No. 16 Louisville, 75-47, on Tuesday…The Billy Minardi Classic originated in 2002 to honor the memory of Billy Minardi, brother-in-law of Louisville Head Coach Rick Pitino, who died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.