BUIES CREEK, North Carolina – Kevin Keatts asked sophomore scoring guard C.J. Bryce to ramp up his game and the Charlotte product responded on Wednesday night, erupting for a career-high 26 points as UNCW set a record for the best start in school history with a 96-75 victory over Campbell at Gore Arena.
The Seahawks extended their winning streak to six games and are off to a school-best 9-1 start, eclipsing the 8-1 opening in 1992-93. The Camels, returning to the floor following a nine-day layoff for exams, are now 5-5 on the new season.
“We played really hard in the second half and got some easy baskets in transition,” said Keatts, who avenged a loss to the Camels two years ago in Buies Creek. “Our depth really helped us tonight.
“I’m excited about setting the record for the best start, but we realize it’s only 10 games. We’re just grateful for the nine wins.”
Bryce led all scorers in the contest with his 26 points, besting a 25-point effort in a 126-113 handling of Pfeiffer 11 days ago. Bryce wound up hitting 8-of-14 shots from the field and added 8-of-11 attempts at the charity stripe with four assists to help the Seahawks move to 6-1 away from Trask Coliseum in 2016-17.
Keatts added, “I thought C.J. was really aggressive tonight. I challenged him and I thought he played really well. It was nice to find a way for some other guys to score.”
Sophomore forward Devontae Cacok added his fourth double-double of the season with 18 points – including four slams - and 10 rebounds and redshirt sophomore guard JaQuel Richmond chipped in 11 points.
Junior forward Shane Whitfield anchored four players in double figures for the Camels with 25 points. Sophomore guard Chris Clemons, the nation’s fourth leading scorer, was held to 18 points, while freshman guard Cory Gensler scored 11 and sophomore forward Andrew Eudy had 10.
The Seahawks scooted out to a 41-32 advantage and led by as many as 24 points late in the contest before notching the 25th double digit win in Keatts’ three years on the bench. It was also UNCW’s first win in four tries at Gore Arena.
After carving out the nine-point lead at the break, the Seahawks withstood an early run by the Camels, who narrowed the deficit to five points just five minutes into the final period.
A layup by Bryce gave the Seahawks a 52-45 lead with 15:24 remaining, but Whitfield converted a conventional three-point play to get the Camels within 52-48 at 15:17. It was the closest the Camels would come, however, as the Seahawks clamped down defensively and used a 10-0 run to gain separation from their state rivals.
“I thought we did a good job, for the most part, of taking the ball out of the hands of (Chris) Clemons,” Keatts said. “Our guys accepted the challenge and we held him to 18 points."
UNCW posted its largest lead of the game with 4:43 left to play when Denzel Ingram drained a triple from the top of the key for an 85-61 bulge.
The pesky Camels grabbed an early lead behind Clemons, who scored 13 points in the opening frame to help the hosts stay within striking distance in the first 11 minutes. Whitfield’s running bank shot gave Campbell a 19-16 edge at 8:53 before the Seahawks responded.
Bryce keyed an 8-0 run as the Seahawks connected on eight straight field goals to break the game open. Bryce started the spurt with a free throw and Richmond tossed in a teardrop and jumper from the right side to put the Seahawks ahead, 24-19.
UNCW registered its largest lead of the first half with 1:47 left when Bryce sliced his way down the middle for a layup, handing the Seahawks a 38-29 advantage.
The Seahawks shot 55.2 percent on the night, marking the fourth time in the last five outings that the Seahawks have bettered the 50 percent mark.
The Seahawks return to Trask Coliseum for their final two games before the Christmas break. Keatts and his club take on Radford on Saturday (Dec. 17) at 2 p.m., followed by a Tuesday (Dec. 20) matchup with rival East Carolina.
GAME NOTES: In a series that dates to 1951-52, UNCW leads 59-43…Clemons was held five points below his 24.0 ppg average…UNCW outrebounded CU, 33-20, on the glass…C.J. Bryce and JaQuel Richmond had four assists apiece for pace the Seahawks, who had 19 assists on 37 baskets…UNCW had 14 offensive rebounds to just five for the Camels…Fifty free throws were taken in the contest…The Seahawks committed just seven turnovers…UNCW scored 50 points in the paint….There were eight lead changes…Ten players scored for the Seahawks…Reserves scored 25 points off the bench for the Seahawks.