MBB surrenders 15-point lead in opening night loss


Jaylen Fornes shooting a free throw during UNCW’s game against Illinois State on Nov. 9, 2021 (Cameron Smithwick)

Bailey Swogger, Contributing Writer

UNCW men’s basketball (0-1) let Tuesday’s season-opener slip away as they suffered a 68-63 loss at Illinois State.

With just five minutes left in the first half, the Seahawks held a 27-12 lead over the Redbirds (1-0) with no signs pointing to a final 25-minute meltdown by the Hawks.

The Redbirds’ comeback was led by Antonio Reeves who finished the contest with 29 points, shooting 5 for 8 from three.

The Redbirds went on a 7-0 run down the stretch of the first half and before you knew it, the Seahawk lead was cut to nine at intermission.

Early on in the second half, UNCW’s offense looked stagnant in the half-court. It became evident that points would be extremely hard to come by whenever this team was not creating turnovers leading to fast break scores.

Illinois State took the lead early in the second half and never really looked back. The Redbirds found an offensive flow, scoring by moving the ball and getting open looks, whereas the Seahawks began to take some forced shots.

Even the good looks that UNCW was getting from their better shooters such as Jaylen Fornes and Alec Oglesby, just weren’t falling for the majority of the game.

Even with a disappointing loss, there are a lot of positives that UNCW basketball fans can take away from this game. To start, this is a very fast defense that created 11 turnovers. In the first half, Trazarien White turned a steal into an emphatic dunk that was followed by a Jaylen Sims stepback three on the next possession.

This team is capable of blowing the roof off of Trask Coliseum any day of the week.

If there is one thing to take away from this early out-of-conference game, it would no doubt be the fight that these players played with. When the game seemed out of hand, the Seahawks clawed right back in it, scoring 13 points in the final two-and-a-half minutes which cut the lead to three at one point before running out of time.       

The Seahawks were led in scoring by Shykeim Phillips with 14 and also got big-time play from White off the bench who finished with 10 points and seven rebounds.

Catch the Seahawks back at home on Friday night as they take on Guilford College at 7:00 p.m.