UNCW to face James Madison in first round of CAA Tournament
Published: Thursday, March 1, 2012
Updated: Thursday, March 1, 2012 22:03
The UNC Wilmington men's basketball team has wrapped up its regular season and is preparing to begin play in the CAA Tournament this weekend. The Seahawks roll into Richmond, Va., the site of the tourney, as the No. 9 seed in the field, scheduled to play the No. 8 Dukes of James Madison University at noon on Friday in the tournament's first game.
After winning the CAA Tournament title four times in seven years in the first decade, the Seahawks (9-20 overall, 5-13 conference) have been on a losing streak since 2008 when they advanced to the semifinals. They will look to break that streak Friday against the Dukes (12-19, 5-13), a team that defeated UNCW 69-61, Jan. 18in the squads' only meeting this season.
"We've played them once already this season when they beat us," said UNCW coach Buzz Peterson. "We had our chances down the stretch but didn't execute as well. Humpty Hitchens had a big game. We have to do a good job of guarding dribble drives, a good job of guarding penetration, and we have to make them pay if they double Keith (Rendleman). We're looking forward to playing James Madison again."
Rendleman was named to the All-CAA First Team Thursday night after finishing his junior season leading UNCW in points and rebounds with 15.6 and 10.5, respectively. Hitchens, named to the All-CAA Third Team, exploded for a career-high 27 points against the Seahawks in the earlier meeting, going 9-for-14 from the field and 4-for-7 from three-point land.
While their regular season record may prove lackluster, senior guard Trevor Deloach believes the Seahawks are just as threatening as any other team in the tournament field. "We know we can compete with any team in the conference," said Deloach. "There's a lot of good teams in the CAA but we know that, in any given game, anything can happen, especially come tournament time."
Deloach, a senior, has yet to win a game in the CAA Tournament, as the Seahawks have been bounced out in the first round each time in the past three years. "I just want to get a win," said Deloach. "That's the first step to a championship. We can do it. We're looking forward to that challenge."
If the Seahawks are to defeat the Dukes, they will need help from their freshmen-dominated roster. Freshman guard Adam Smith was recently named to the All-CAA Rookie Team after being second on the team in scoring at 14 points per game while shooting 38 percent from the field. Freshman forward Cedrick Williams has also been a regular starter for the squad and a source of energy and effort on the rebounding end.
"I'm telling the freshmen that this atmosphere we're playing in is different," said Deloach. "The gym is cold, the ball is different; it's going to be something they're not used to. They just have to play hard. The intensity level for the tournament is at a whole different level."
What the Seahawks do have as an advantage over the Dukes is history. They lead the overall series against JMU 32-29, including a 3-2 mark at Richmond Coliseum. In the squads' last matchup in Richmond in 2004, UNCW won 44-41.
"We've wiped the slate clean now and getting off to a fresh new start," said Peterson."I've told the team, ‘Everyone is 0-0 right now.' We've had some good days of practice, lots of energy and enthusiasm so we're excited and ready to go. I'm trying to get them to stay focused, pay attention to game plan and personnel and just take it one game at a time. This is the third part of the season and this means a lot. It's do or die now."