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UNCW looks to keep home undefeated streak alive this weekend

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UNCW looks to keep home undefeated streak alive this weekend

UNCW head coach Karen Barefoot during the Seahawks' contest against Northeastern on Feb. 3, 2019.

UNCW head coach Karen Barefoot during the Seahawks' contest against Northeastern on Feb. 3, 2019.

Noah Powers/The Seahawk

UNCW head coach Karen Barefoot during the Seahawks' contest against Northeastern on Feb. 3, 2019.

Noah Powers/The Seahawk

Noah Powers/The Seahawk

UNCW head coach Karen Barefoot during the Seahawks' contest against Northeastern on Feb. 3, 2019.

Lanre Badmus, Staff Writer

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Many have noticed that there is a new confidence surrounding UNC Wilmington women’s basketball. Some may even say a new swagger. That tends to happen when your team is a perfect 10-0 on its home court.  

Head coach Karen Barefoot’s team continues to go from strength to strength in her second year at the helm of the program. Now entering the second half of a four-game homestand this weekend, the Seahawks (13-7, 6-3 CAA) will once again put their mettle to the test when Elon and William & Mary both visit Trask Coliseum. 

Phoenix Preview 

First up will be two-time defending champion Elon. The Phoenix are set to meet UNCW on Friday night at 7 p.m. Elon (7-13, 2-7 CAA) will arrive in the Port City looking to end their current six-game losing streak and avenge their 75-70 home loss to the Seahawks on Jan. 13. In that game, the Seahawks fought back from a 16-point deficit to notch a crucial road victory and kickstart Elon’s struggles. 

On the other end, the Seahawks are coming off a weekend where they beat Hofstra by 35 and Northeastern by 13 points respectively and are currently sitting at fourth in the conference. However, despite the obvious differences in form, one would be wrong to assume the Seahawks would ever underestimate the Phoenix. 

“Practices are going well,” said Barefoot during media availability on Wednesday afternoon. “We’re getting after it. We know that this is going to be a very difficult week, but again, we’re at home.” 

One player the Seahawks may have to take a close look at on defense is Elon forward Emily Maupin. The 6’3 sophomore leads the Phoenix in both scoring (12.5 PPG) and rebounding (6.5 RPG). Maupin also had a double-double with a career-high of 26 points and 11 rebounds in the earlier meeting between the two teams. 

“I feel like we need to do a better job with her, and I think we didn’t do that earlier at Elon,” said Barefoot. “But we had made adjustments, and the girls bought into it second half and we got the momentum to really pull it off. We were down 16 at their place, so we know this is not going to be an easy task.” 

Protecting homecourt 

Junior guard Lacey Suggs said on Wednesday that the undefeated home record signifies that the team is building something special. 

“We just want to keep that record here,” Suggs said on the current 10-0 home record. “We’re building something special here and we just want to keep getting better every day in practice and just stay mentally prepared for the next game.” 

Barefoot noted that the team’s confidence at home has led them to high placement in many statistical categories. In conference play, UNCW currently leads the CAA in field goal percentage at just under 45 percent. They are also second in both three-point percentage and steals at 36 percent and 8.7 per game, respectively.   

New and old faces aid Seahawk surge 

UNCW can thank numerous players, original recruits and transfers, for its increased success thus far this season. Guards Shrita Parker and GiGi Smith, both transfers from Old Dominion and Rutgers respectively, lead the team in scoring, and both players were UNCW’s top two scorers in both victories last weekend. Suggs has also been a consistent triple threat with her ability to stuff the stat sheet.  

Another driving force that the Seahawks have going in their favor is the resurgence of senior center Chinyere Bell. The former George Mason Patriot was one of four players in double figures in wins over Hofstra and Northeastern, including a near double-double of 14 points and nine rebounds in the latter.  

After what she called “a tough last three years” with sit-outs from the transfer and a coaching change, Bell is happy to finally see some real progress resulting from her hard work. However, according to her, not much has changed in terms of her playing style. 

“I’ve just been playing the same,” said Bell, whose scoring average has jumped to 6.3 points per game since her insertion to the starting lineup in December. “It’s just the ball has gotten to me more recently, and I’ve just had more opportunities to make big plays. It’s a journey, not a race.” 

Most importantly, there is a newly-developed team chemistry the Seahawks now have in year two of the Barefoot era. That chemistry has led to the increased belief among the players and support from fans across campus. 

“I think everybody has got a good vibe right now and they’ve got the experience from last year,” Barefoot said. “Most importantly, I think people are very positive and they’re leading. They know their role, they know what I need from them and the team knows what they need. So I think that leadership has really helped this team.” 

The Seahawks have already come leaps and bounds from last season. This weekend represents a chance to further solidify the belief that they are potential contenders for the CAA crown. 

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UNCW looks to keep home undefeated streak alive this weekend