TOWSON, Maryland – Senior guard Denzel Ingram of UNCW dropped in 19 of his game-high 22 points in the second half as the defending Colonial Athletic Association champions cruised past Towson, 76-67, in the conference opener for both teams early Saturday at SECU Arena.
The Seahawks, making their fourth appearance in the venue, improved to 12-2 overall and are 1-0 in the CAA after the key win. The Tigers, returning to the floor after a nine-day layoff for the Christmas holiday, are 8-6 in all games and 0-1.
Ingram, from Charlotte, N.C., anchored four players in double figures and added six rebounds and two steals while committing just two turnovers in 38 minutes on the floor. He led the Seahawks in scoring for the third straight game and fifth time this season.
Sophomore guard Devontae Cacok added 17 points and eight rebounds, graduate guard Ambrose Mosely erupted for 15 – all in the second half – and sophomore guard C.J. Bryce finished with 11 points.
“Road games are golden,” said a pleased third-year UNCW skipper Kevin Keatts. “Winning on the road in any conference is very, very tough. This was a tough game we were playing against a very good basketball team on its home floor.
“We did a great job of guarding in the first half and only gave up three offensive rebounds in the second half. Towson pounds you on the glass and we did a good job of matching their intensity in the second half.
“Denzel is our engine and he’s playing well. On the nights we need him to score, he steps up. I thought he did a very good job. He was aggressive and got to the free throw line six times.”
Senior forward John Davis came off the bench to pace the Tigers with 18 points and posted a double double with 14 rebounds. Junior guard Mike Morsell collected 13 points and junior guard Deshaun Morman contributed 11.
The Seahawks avenged a 76-60 loss last January on a snowy night in suburban Baltimore by breaking away from the Tigers late and leading by as many as 14 points in the second half. UNCW shot 50 percent in the second half and forced 19 turnovers to win away from home for the seventh time in nine games this season.
After inching out to a narrow 32-31 advantage at halftime, the Seahawks finally shook the pesky Tigers with seven minutes remaining and closed out the conference road win in solid fashion.
Morsell’s triple sliced the lead to 56-51 with 8:14 on the clock, but the Seahawks, behind the long range shooting of Ingram and Mosley, padded the lead to 14 points with a minute remaining. Reserve guard JaQuel Richmond converted both ends of a bonus situation with one minute left to give UNCW a 76-62 cushion – their largest of the contest.
In a pairing of the top two favorites in the circuit, the Seahawks built a 32-31 edge at halftime after forcing 13 Towson miscues. Both teams struggled offensively in the opening half – shooting an identical 34 percent on 11-of-32 shooting - as conference play opened in a tightly-contested first period.
The active Cacok was a force inside early for UNCW and scored eight of the Seahawks’ first nine points, including a layup inside four minutes into the contest that gave his team a 9-5 lead.
The Tigers rallied to take their first lead of the game, 17-16, on Morsell’s three-pointer on the left wing at 10:42 before the Seahawks regrouped to take the lead at the break. Morsell was Towson’s top scorer in the first 20 minutes with 10 points.
Cacok scored the final five points of the first period for the Seahawks and wound up with 13 points on 5-of-7 from the field.
The Seahawks wrap up a challenging schedule of three games in six days with a 7 p.m. matchup on Monday vs. Elon at Trask Coliseum. The Tigers travel to Harrisonburg, Va., on Monday for a clash with James Madison.
GAME NOTES: The Seahawks lead the all-time series with the Tigers, 21-14…Kevin Keatts is now 4-1 against Towson since arriving three years ago….UNCW has won five of the last six matchups between the two teams…The game marked the earliest start in the 34-game series…The Seahawks stand 32-24 against Maryland opponents through the years…Sophomore guard C.J. Bryce has reached double figures in 12 of 14 games this season…Sophomore forward Devontae Cacok now has 41 dunks this season…The Seahawks are 3-3 in New Year’s Eve games…UNCW went 10-of-30 from deep and Towson was just 3-of-9 from long range…The Seahawks had 16 assists on 26 baskets…The Tigers were assessed with two technical fouls on the contest.