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This week in UNCW sports history: Hofstra rivalry, revisted

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This week in UNCW sports history: Hofstra rivalry, revisted

Collin Underwood, Staff Writer

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As UNC Wilmington men’s basketball prepares for its annual trip up north to Hofstra, The Seahawk took a look back at the 2015-16 season to reflect on the budding rivalry between the Seahawks and the Pride.

Early in 2016, then-UNCW coach Kevin Keatts continued his turnaround of the UNCW basketball program by clinching another CAA regular season title, winning the CAA Tournament and securing an NCAA Tournament berth by posting an overall record of 25-8 in his second year at the helm. During that landmark year for the Seahawks, a rivalry was born with the team they shared the CAA title: the Hofstra Pride.

The Seahawks and Pride met three times during the 2015-16 campaign, with the average margin of victory a mere 3.67 points The first of three barnburners came on the road in Long Island, where UNCW found itself down 12 at the half.

That deficit would not be enough to keep down the three-point specialists of UNCW. The Seahawks posted a 44-point second half, pulling ahead for good when junior Denzel Ingram hit a three with four seconds left on the clock to secure a 70-67 victory.

Hofstra’s defensive collapse had the Pride primed for payback when they visited Wilmington three weeks later.

The meeting in Wilmington late in the CAA regular season was eerily similar to the first meeting – this time with an opposite result.

UNCW went into halftime with a 16-point lead and aspirations to secure sole possession of the top seed in the conference tournament. The rest of the evening would not go as planned, as Hofstra forward Rokas Gustys dominated the glass and kept his team alive.

Gustys’s 21 rebounds ignited the Pride, as well as the Seahawk student section. Throughout the game, Gustys, being a passionate player, engaged in conversation with the student section and ultimately got the last laugh.

After the Pride completed their 17-point comeback victory, Gustys waved his arms to the students, prompting a roar of boos on his way to the locker room. Hofstra coach Joe Mihalich added insult to the injury by also waving his arms to Trask Coliseum before disappearing into the locker room.

With the two teams tied for first place in the conference and a heated rivalry brewing, it seemed natural for them to meet once more with an NCAA Tournament bid on the line.

The Seahawks were met with scares from College of Charleston and Northeastern before meeting the Pride in the CAA Tournament championship game. Gustys had another amazing and passionate performance for the Pride, posting 18 points and 23 rebounds on the night.

The Seahawks were down seven by halftime, but surged early in the second half to strike even and battled punch-for-punch the rest of the night. CAA player of the year Juan’ya Green missed a potential game-winning three at the buzzer for Hofstra, and the season-long battle with the Pride was decided in a five-minute overtime period.

The Seahawks held the Pride to a mere five points in the overtime period, winning the game 80-73 and claiming the fifth CAA Championship in program history.

Rokas Gustys, ever the UNCW student section’s arch nemesis, will play his final two regular-season games against the Seahawks in the next two weeks as both sides will get their last shots at tilting the rivalry in their respective team’s favor.

Contributing Writer Collin Underwood can be found on Twitter @tweetnUnderWood. Any tips or suggestion should be forwarded via email to uncwseahawksports@gmail.com. For video updates from The Seahawk, subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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This week in UNCW sports history: Hofstra rivalry, revisted