NORFOLK, V.A. (UNCW release) - Road wins are like gold on the college basketball trail and Takayo Siddle’s UNCW squad mined a big one early Friday at Norfolk State’s Echols Hall.
With four players in deep foul trouble and the game hanging in the balance, the Seahawks received yeoman efforts from several players in an 80-72 triumph over host Norfolk State in their first visit to Virginia since 2014.
The Seahawks, playing the second leg of a three-game road swing, improved to 4-3 after alternating wins and losses over the last five outings. The Spartans concluded their non-conference home slate with a 3-3 mark and next play at George Mason on Dec. 26.
Sophomore guard Joe Pridgen anchored three players in double figures for the Seahawks with a career-high 19 points and added 10 rebounds for his second double-double since joining the team on Dec. 7 after gaining an NCAA waiver. Senior guard Ty Gadsden and sophomore guard Jake Boggs chipped in 18 points apiece for the Seahawks, who overcame serious foul trouble for their second road win of the campaign.
MEAC favorite Norfolk State also featured three players in double digits. Redshirt senior forward J.J. Matthews led all scorers with 24 points, senior guard Devante Carter scored 16 and senior guard Kashaun Hicks added 12.
Norfolk State entered the contest with one of the country’s best defenses, but the Seahawks, with Pridgen, leading scorer Jaylen Sims, reserve guard Mike Okauru and reserve forward John Bowen saddled with four fouls, found a way at the end. The Spartans entered the contest ranked 23rd in the nation in field goal percentage defense (36.3 and 39th in 3-point field goal percentage defense (26.7).
“What a team effort by our guys,” said Siddle. “I thought everybody contributed to the win on a night when our best player didn’t play well. Guys stepped up and made plays when it was time for them to make plays.
“Both halves were up and down. In the second half, we got a little separation and I kept reminding the guys about the game at East Carolina when we had the lead and didn’t respond the right way. We learned a lesson from that game and closed out the game the way we needed to.”
The Seahawks forged out to a narrow 37-34 lead at intermission and remained on top, 55-51, after Pridgen sank a pair of free throws with just over 10 minutes left to play.
The lead then switched hands several times and Norfolk State appeared to have the advantage in the final five minutes with the Seahawks nursing foul issues.
Two free throws by Hicks staked the Spartans to a 70-69 edge with 2:44 left to play, but the Seahawks relied on a stingy defense and clutch free throw shooting the rest of the way, outscoring Norfolk State, 11-2, over the last 1:33 to claim the first meeting between the two schools. UNCW finished an outstanding 28-of-31 at the charity stripe on the night.
Boggs delivered the big buckets in the surge, sinking back-to-back triples to put the Seahawks ahead, 75-70, with less than a minute showing. Gadsden then dropped in two free throws and Pridgen added another to salt the game away.
In the first half, the Seahawks spotted the Spartans a quick 4-0 cushion before reeling off 11 straight points. Norfolk State answered with a 13-0 spurt of its own to pull ahead, 17-11, until the Seahawks regrouped to grab the 37-34 lead at the break.
GAME NOTES: Okauru filled up the stat sheet again with seven points, seven rebounds and seven assists…The Seahawks now stand 19-21 all-time vs. the MEAC…UNCW is 187-210 lifetime vs Virginia opponents…It was UNCW’s fifth afternoon game in seven contests this season…Norfolk State made a 3-pointer in its 355th straight game dating back to a contest at South Carolina State on Jan. 25, 2010…Norfolk State outrebounded UNCW, 42-31, including 18 offensive rebounds…The Seahawks scored 38 points in the paint.