HARRISONBURG, Virginia – In a historic season featuring new records with each new game, UNCW's men's basketball team tacked on another one Thursday night - the fastest Seahawk team to reach 20 wins in a season.
Led by CAA Preseason Player of the Year Chris Flemmings, the Seahawks placed six men in double figures for the second time this season to blow past host James Madison, 87-76, to remain atop the Colonial Athletic Association standings midway through the conference season.
The Seahawks (20-2, 9-0) won their ninth consecutive game by taking the first leg of a two-game road trip to Virginia. The Dukes (6-16, 4-5) suffered their third straight loss and fifth defeat in six outings.
Coupled with Towson’s overtime thriller over College of Charleston (16-6, 7-2), the Seahawks now own a two-game lead over the Cougars in the CAA standings. With an unblemished 9-0 record, the Seahawks are off to the fourth best start in league history, matching JMU’s 1991 and 1992 clubs.
This year’s Seahawk club becomes only the second unit in school history to post back-to-back 20-win seasons, following the lead of the 2001-02 and 2002-03 teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
“The road is tough and we’re fortunate to get out of here with a win,” said Kevin Keatts, who improved to 17-6 in CAA road games in three seasons. “It was the first time in 22 games that I didn’t think we followed the scouting report in the first half. In the second half, we followed the scouting report, shared the ball, we made shots, took rhythm three’s and did a good job of scoring the ball.
“We made some great passes. Our guys did a great job of finding open guys. I’m proud of our guys. I thought we did a great job of finding guys and making open shots.”
Flemmings, from Cary, N.C., anchored UNCW’s balanced attack with 18 points, followed by sophomore forward Devontae Cacok (16), senior guard Denzel Ingram (14), junior guard Jordon Talley (14), graduate guard Ambrose Mosley (13) and sophomore guard C.J. Bryce (11).
Cacok, who pulled down a school and CAA game record 24 rebounds in the team’s last outing vs. Drexel, wound up with 10 boards for his ninth double-double of the season.
Senior guard Jackson Kent paced five Dukes in double figures with 23 points, including 15 in the first half. Senior guard Shakir Brown (18), senior forward Paulius Satkus (15), junior forward Ramone Showden (10) and senior guard Joey McLean (10) rounded out JMU’s scoring.
The Seahawks inched out to a 38-35 lead at intermission and turned up the heat in the second half, shooting 65.5 percent after the break and draining 9-of-16 treys in a long distance barrage to bury the Dukes.
The Seahawks finished 16-of-35 behind the arc, setting a JMU Convocation Center record for three-pointers made and falling just one shy of UNCW’s single game record.
In the second half, JMU was still hanging around and trailed, 54-53, when Kent converted a turnaround jumper in the paint with 12 minutes remaining.
Flemmings, however, caught fire and sank consecutive trifectas to give the Seahawks some breathing room and after a three-ball from McLean, UNCW scored 13 of the next 15 points to build a working margin.
UNCW registered its largest lead of the game with 7:07 on the clock when Mosley canned his fourth triple of the half to extend the margin to 73-58.
The Seahawks bolted out to an early 13-point lead in the first half before the Dukes rallied with a big surge over the final seven minutes of the period.
After a three-pointer by Bryce gave the Seahawks an early 17-7 advantage at 12:38, UNCW used a 6-0 mini-run to extend the margin to 23-10 on a shot in the paint by Cacok with 10:25 left in the first half.
But JMU stormed back with a 12-2 spurt and McLean’s jumper on the left elbow with just over five minutes left in the first half helped the Dukes climb within striking distance, 25-22.
The Seahawks, led by Talley’s 10 points in the early period, pushed the lead back to eight points, but JMU closed out the half with a 9-3 rally to narrow the deficit to three points at the break, 38-35, when Brown scored on a putback and sank a free throw with 17 seconds left in the half.
JMU scored 20 of its 35 points in the paint in the opening period and forced seven Seahawk turnovers to offset UNCW’s long distance attack. Kent scored 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting and 4-of-4 at the line in the first half.
The Seahawks conclude their two-game road trip to Virginia on Saturday with a 4 p.m. tip against William & Mary’s Tribe at Kaplan Arena in Williamsburg. The Dukes travel to Newark, Del., on Saturday to battle Delaware’s Blue Hens at 7 p.m.
GAME NOTES: The Seahawks lead the longtime series with the Dukes by a 38-33 margin…JMU now stands 4-7 at home…UNCW improved to 9-1 in true road games and 11-2 in all games away from Trask Coliseum…Jordon Talley dished out seven assists as four players had at least four helpers in the contest for the Seahawks…UNCW outrebounded JMU, 31-26…The Seahawks shot 55.2 percent on the night and the Dukes finished at 50.9 percent…Chris Flemmings filled up the stat sheet with 18 points, eight rebounds and five assists…Jordon Talley reached double figures off the bench for the fifth time…UNCW’s last loss came at Clemson on Dec. 28, 2016.