Preview: UNCW faces its first test on the road at Davidson


Noah Powers/The Seahawk

Jeffrey Gary goes for the hoop in UNCW’s 105-81 win over N.C. Wesleyan on Saturday, Nov. 11.

Noah Thomas, Sports Editor

On Saturday, UNC Wilmington men’s basketball program took its first step into the C.B. McGrath era with a 105-81 win over North Carolina Wesleyan.

Tuesday will bring a tougher test. The Seahawks will travel a few hours west to Davidson College, the alma mater of NBA star and Charlotte native Stephen Curry.

The Wildcats no longer have a future NBA All-Star on their team, but Davidson still stocks plenty of firepower along the perimeter with the ability to drive the ball inside and to the hoop.

Keeping up the pace

UNCW did what it did best on Saturday against the Battling Bishops: speeding up the pace of the game and scoring points in transition by attacking the basket.

Jordan Talley, UNCW’s starting point guard for the first time since his freshman season, scored a career-high 24 points. Devontae Cacok’s double-double – 21 points, 16 rebounds – provided a boost on both ends of the court.

The Seahawks scored 48 – or 46 percent – of their points against Wesleyan in the paint. Much of UNCW’s scoring, 24 points in all, came on the fast break.

Both of these are key points of emphasis for McGrath’s team.

“I was pleased with the pace of the game and how we came out attacking,” McGrath said in Saturday’s post-game press conference. “With the pace of the game and them not calling many fouls or turnovers, it felt like it would be four or five minutes before they’d stop the play. I’d put one (substitute) up there, and by the time we subbed it was all five guys.”

Defense can make or break UNCW

McGrath admitted on Saturday that his team was not on the level he wanted them to be defensively. UNCW will need to improve on a quick turnaround in order to stand a chance against Davidson’s prolific shooting.

In their season opener against Charleston Southern, the Wildcats hit 26 of their 53 three-point attempts in a 110-62 victory.

UNCW shot just 9-of-26 from beyond the arc against Wesleyan while allowing the Battling Bishops to convert on 10-of-27 attempts, some of which the UNCW head coach said could have been prevented.

“You just have to keep stressing it,” McGrath said of remedying the defense. “Mentality change a little bit. Maybe we didn’t come out with the defensive mindset like we needed to, and maybe we came out with more of an offensive mindset to get up and down the court – which I’ve been talking about, but I’ve also been talking about getting some stops.”

The prediction

UNCW’s lack of concern on defense threw up a few red flags on Saturday, but it would not be a surprise if the season opener stood out as an anomaly because of the caliber of competition the Seahawks were up against.

That being said, it may be difficult for UNCW to adjust defensively when facing a high shooting clip such as Davidson’s. Don’t count on the Wildcats to knock down 26 treys again, but don’t be surprised if the Seahawks give up points at a high rate, either.

Final score: Davidson 92, UNCW 80