Okauru leads Seahawks past Campbell

Mike Okauru happy at UNCW
Mike Okauru happy at UNCW(WECT)
Published: Dec. 21, 2020 at 7:29 PM EST
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BUIES CREEK, N.C. (WECT) - Senior guard Mike Okauru led four players in double figures with 17 points as surging UNCW recorded its second straight road victory by handcuffing Campbell, 78-59, early Monday at Gore Arena.

The Seahawks, 5-3, entered the contest 1-4 at Gore Arena, but used a stellar defensive effort and balanced scoring to frustrate the Camels, who dropped their third straight and dipped to 4-3. It was the 106th meeting between the two longtime state foes.

“Our energy and our defense created a lot for us,” said Takayo Siddle, UNCW’s first-year head coach. “If you look at the numbers, we didn’t shoot the ball great. I thought our defense was tremendous all day. Our communication was the best it’s been all year.

“We didn’t get beaten on many back doors, our deflections were up and it led to some offense for us. I think we’re taking steps. We’re starting to communicate better and, overall, our energy is at a high level right now.”

Okauru, from nearby Raleigh, made 6-of-11 field goals, including three trifectas, for his team high total and reached double figures for the sixth time in eight games. Senior guard Ty Gadsden and junior guard Jaylen Sims added 15 points apiece and sophomore guard Joe Pridgen collected 14 points and 13 rebounds for his second straight double-double and third of the year.

Junior forward Cedric Henderson was high man for the Camels with 23 points, including 21 after intermission. Campbell’s leading scorer, Jordan Whitfield, was held in check, managing just two points on 1-of-11 shooting with three turnovers.

The Seahawks limited the Camels to just 19 points in the first half – the lowest by a UNCW opponent in the first period this season – and then turned back several runs by their longtime rivals to win for only the second time in five tries at the orange-clad venue.

After bolting out to a 33-19 cushion at the break, the Seahawks extended the margin to 21 points in the first five minutes of the second period. The third of Jamahri Harvey’s three triples with 15:54 remaining staked UNCW to its largest lead of the contest, 44-23.

Still trailing 51-33 at the 10-minute mark, the Camels trimmed the deficit to 51-39 with a six-point spurt, but John Bowen’s tip-in increased the margin back to 53-39 and the Seahawks were never headed.

Both teams bounced back from sluggish shooting in the first half to convert an identical 51.7 percent in the final period. UNCW outscored CU, 45-40, in the second half and led for 35:10 of the game.

The Seahawks jumped out to a 33-19 advantage at the break with a stellar defensive effort in the first 20 minutes. After sophomore forward Jesus Carralero’s baby hook cut UNCW’s early advantage to 11-10 with 11:12 left in the period, the Seahawks reeled off 13 unanswered points on the front end of a 22-6 run to pull ahead.

Gadsden did most of the damage early, bucketing 10 points in the first half. Six other Seahawks contributed at least four points in the opening stanza. UNCW enjoyed its largest lead of the half when the elusive Gadsden sank a teardrop from the left baseline and the margin ballooned to 30-12 at 1:53.

The Seahawks conclude their pre-Christmas schedule and non-conference slate on Wednesday with a noon pairing against Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) member Delaware State. UNCW and DSU meet for the first time at Trask Coliseum in only the second home game for the Seahawks in 2020-21.

GAME NOTES: UNCW outrebounded CU, 38-33…Sims led the Seahawks in assists with four helpers…The Seahawks held the Camels to 3-of-18 behind the arc…The Seahawks are 3-2 in December…UNCW leads the all-time series, 62-44, including a commanding 42-13 advantage in NCAA Division I play…The Seahawks are 17-7 against the Camels in December...The Seahawks have compiled a 113-83 record against the Big South Conference…The Seahawks are 6-2 against CU’s Kevin McGeehan…Campbell’s scoring output was its lowest against UNCW since a 69-50 loss on Dec. 3, 2013.

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