Wilmington, NC – There were 4.104 fans in the arena and they were electric as they were feeling good about this opportunity to see UNCW before they play several road games. It’s hard to call this a rivalry when UNCW and Coastal Carolina last met 15 years ago but these schools are only a short distance apart. They were also very well matched looking at the numbers and the key match-ups on the floor.
Coastal Carolina is on the road after only one game so far this season and as Coach Ellis said he has a good group of talent however they have not learned to play together. There were clear signs of that as they struggled to take advantage when opportunities came up.
UNCW came out cold but energetic and were down early 9-3 at the first media time out. They appeared to struggle with penetrating the zone defense of CCU. The score was 13-9 in favor of CCU at the 11-minute mark. With four minutes remaining in the first half, UNCW started to solve the puzzle and took the lead at 27-18. This was a lead they would maintain the remainder of the game.
UNCW ran a man-to-man defense but struggled to support the help side in the beginning. They attempted to play an up-tempo transition and much as possible however CCU would not cooperate. UNCW played a good inside out game, but shots were sporadic, often rushed and shot percentages were low. CCU started off with a good distribution of points as five players quickly contributed, however their bench appeared to be shallower than UNCW’s (24-9 UNCW advantage) By games end UNCW also had more players with offensive contributions.
CCU’s Essam Mostafa, from Egypt, listed as a forward at 6-9, 250, is big, tall and strong. UNCW started off using Amari Kelly who matched up in height but was not stocky enough to battle inside with him. James Baker then came in and was able to match up well and appears to have been the difference in limiting Mostafa to 11 points. He hit only 4-of-11 FG and 3-of-7 FT but did manage to get 11 rebounds. There should be some great games ahead for him as he is dealing with some tendonitis in one knee. You could not tell from this one game if that was a factor.
UNCW struggled with three-point shooting early but as they warmed up, they were finding their range and able to spread the CCU zone out some, which then allowed them to penetrate the zone. Overall, the first half was give and take with UNCW edging out CCU mostly because of the points off the bench with 20 of their 24 were in the first half. CCU connected on only 1-of-11 3- pointers while UNCW was 6-of-18.
Most of the bigs on both teams were going up too soft and not pushing through contact. The winner of the night in that area was UNCW’s 6-7 Baker (nine points) who was 4-of-6 from the field while the 6-9 Kelly was 0-of-5 with CCU’s Mostafa was 4-of-11. UNCW’s guard Shykeim Phillips (11 points) shot well (5-of-9) but missed some opportunities on the pick & roll due to lack of vision. UNCW moved well around the arc with occasional cutters, but the cutters did not often get the looks they earned. The Seahawks applied more pressure in second half which drove the tempo up as well. The faster pace forced Coastal Carolina into 13 turnovers.
UNCW keep a steady large single-digit lead through most of the second half. CCU began fouling a little late for a 10-point game. The Seahawks started hitting their free throws and came away with the 65-53 win. UNCW had 14 fast break points vs. 7 for CCU and had a 30-26 edge in points in the paint. In the end UNCW had a deeper bench with more overall productivity. They set the pace of the game and came away with the win. 6-6 Jaylen Sims lead the winners in scoring (13) and rebounding (8). He shot 3-of-7 from deep.
Coach Siddle said after the game, “it was a hard-fought game and they had to go and get it. It took everyone to contribute to get this win.” He also said the crowd gave them extra energy. Players worked through being tired. Coach also told his players not to get trigger happy in second half and to stay focused.