Seahawks make progress in loss to Hofstra

It's not too often a team experiences a morale boosting loss, but that's exactly what UNCW did tonight.

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Seahawks make progress in loss to Hofstra

UNCW interim head coach Rob Burke during the Seahawks' matchup against Hofstra on Jan. 16, 2020.

UNCW interim head coach Rob Burke during the Seahawks' matchup against Hofstra on Jan. 16, 2020.

Noah Powers/The Seahawk

UNCW interim head coach Rob Burke during the Seahawks' matchup against Hofstra on Jan. 16, 2020.

Noah Powers/The Seahawk

Noah Powers/The Seahawk

UNCW interim head coach Rob Burke during the Seahawks' matchup against Hofstra on Jan. 16, 2020.

Noah Powers, Sports Editor

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WILMINGTON — To see UNC Wilmington in action tonight, the idea that head coach C.B. McGrath was fired earlier this week would not have crossed your mind. 

Interim head coach Rob Burke had three days to mentally prepare his newly acquired Seahawks for action against Hofstra (14-5, 5-1 Colonial Athletic Association). However, the intensity and grit displayed by UNCW (5-15, 0-7 CAA) tonight made it seem as though the Seahawks have played Burke’s upbeat style of basketball all season.  

Trask Coliseum was alive and well as UNCW took one of the CAA’s leaders to the wire before falling short 63-61 on a missed Jaylen Sims three-pointer at the buzzer.  

One of Burke’s main topics of discussion following the game was not based on the game itself, but on the state of UNCW basketball following the events of earlier this week.  

“It’s been emotional, it’s been trying,” said Burke. “C.B. McGrath is a great human being, he’s a great man.”  

Most of Burke’s attention, however, veered away from the coach’s position and toward the mental state of his players. He could be seen, fully animated, cheering his team on from the sidelines. He, at one point, even got down on his hands and knees, and slapped the floor to try and get the energy level up.  

“Now all I have to do is worry about the welfare of our kids,” said Burke. “The most important thing is those young men in the locker room and how they feel. I’ve got to make sure these next 50-60 days [are] a great experience for them.” 

Based on the team’s performance tonight, there is a newfound energy in the air in the Port City. Burke says that despite the shortcomings the team has faced this season, he still has high goals and expectations set for his players, including a hopeful run in the CAA tournament.  

“If we could try to finish sixth [in the CAA] that would be great,” said Burke. “It’s going to be really, really hard, but that gets you a bye.” 

The Seahawks were led tonight by Mike Okauru who finished with 17 points and four rebounds. Okauru was followed closely by Imajae Dodd who brushed against a double-double with nine points and nine rebounds.  

“It’s very emotional (the firing of McGrath),” said Dodd. “I feel like everybody here has been in different places but we’re trying to get back to it and practice and we’re just trying to figure it out.”  

The Seahawks have played their fair share of close games this season, but this one came with a noticeable level of intensity — an intensity unlike what we’ve seen all season.  

“This one felt different because we were right there,” said Okauru. “We were right there. I feel like we fought for 40 minutes. This is one of the first times all year we’ve fought for 40 minutes and we just came up short.” 

UNCW looks to carry the momentum of this game into Saturday’s matchup against Northeastern (10-8, 4-2 CAA). That game is set for a 7 p.m. tipoff.