Seahawks fall to Blue Hens in season finale

Marten+Linssen+battles+Delaware+defenders+during+UNCW%27s+matchup+with+the+Blue+Hens+on+Feb.+29%2C+2020+at+Trask+Coliseum.+

Marten Linssen battles Delaware defenders during UNCW's matchup with the Blue Hens on Feb. 29, 2020 at Trask Coliseum.

Noah Powers, Sports Editor

WILMINGTON — After winning three of its last five games, UNC Wilmington (10-21, 5-13 Colonial Athletic Association) was unable to muster up a win to close the regular season. Delaware (21-10, 11-7 CAA) capitalized on a sloppy second half from the Seahawks to walk out of Trask Coliseum with an 82-65 win Saturday night.

Despite what the score says, tonight’s contest showed a much more focused and intense UNCW squad than the Blue Hens met in Newark back in December.

“Rob (Burke) has done a fabulous job with this group. They’re an a lot different team than when we played them Dec. 28,” said Delaware head coach Martin Inglesby. “They play really hard, they make it difficult, they make you think for 40 minutes.”

UNCW came out of the gate strong in the first half, shooting 50 percent from the floor and 43 percent from beyond the arc. Junior guard Ty Gadsden led the way for the Seahawks before the intermission, racking up 11 points including 2-of-3 from three.

The Seahawks went into halftime trailing 41-40 but looked to right the ship heading into second half action. However, much to the chagrin of the Seahawk club, the second half spelled disaster as UNCW went 33 percent from the field and only hit 1-of-9 from deep.

A silver lining to the second-half woes, however, was a show-out performance from redshirt sophomore Marten Linssen. The big man cashed in on 19 points tonight and shot a team-high 9-of-12 from the floor.

“I’m happy that happened tonight, but it’s a team sport,” said Linssen. “I was lucky to score tonight but he (Shykeim Phillips) did that two days ago, so it doesn’t matter as long as we score as a team.”

Feeding his post players down low has been a narrative of interim head coach Rob Burke’s since taking the interim head coach position back in early January, and it seems that has been one of the keys to success in bringing life back to the UNCW program.

“I’ll be honest, we didn’t get him the ball enough. That’s my fault,” said Burke. “We got into what we call our ‘open offense’ and we did not give Marty (Linssen) enough touches.”

Linssen was followed closely by Gadsden and Phillips who had 14 and 12 points respectively.

The Seahawks now look ahead to the CAA tournament where they enter as the 9-seed to take on 8-seeded Drexel (13-18, 6-12 CAA), which UNCW knocked off on Thursday night. That matchup will be on Saturday, March 7 with a 4 p.m. tipoff and will be played at the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Washington D.C. — a venue in which the ‘Hawks are familiar with.

Back in November, UNCW participated in the Battle for the Capital along with Cleveland State and Florida International.

“That’s why we did it,” Burke said of UNCW scheduling to play in the Entertainment and Sports Arena earlier in the season. “We went up there so we could get a couple of days of extra practice in there…we know we can win in that gym.”

More than anything, however, Burke wants the team to use the CAA tournament as a fresh start, free from the adversity that this season has presented.

“It’s zero-zero,” said Burke. “Everybody is zero-zero. Somebody will do your dirty work on the other bracket. You can’t worry about anything else. You’ve got to take care of your business and our business is Drexel. We’ve got to be as good as we can be for 40 minutes. We can’t think about nothing else.”

Burke’s influence has worked its way into the team’s mind as well.

“The good thing about this (the loss), we’re at zero-zero now,” said Phillips. “This week in practice we can just come, clear our minds and just execute coach’s game plan, and try to win the tournament.”

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2020 CAA tournament bracket