Seahawks drop a tough one to Hofstra

Charles Cox | Staff Writer

The UNC Wilmington men’s basketball team’s game against Hofstra on Saturday was a tale of two halves. The Seahawks headed into the locker room with a ten point halftime lead, only to watch it disappear in the second half, turning into a 65-56 loss.

“We make mistakes, we fight our way back, we get down,” said Hofstra Pride coach Mo Cassara. “Wilmington is as good a team as there is in the league playing at home. I’m proud of our effort.”

When the teams met January 26th, Chris Dixon scored a game-high 22 points, leading the Seahawks to a 57-51 win. The Pride made a concerted effort to shut down the junior transfer this time around, holding him to seven points, all of which came late in the 2nd half.

The Pride was also a force in the low post. Center Stephen Nwaukoni finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds, while forward David Imes added eight points and nine rebounds. The team’s frontcourt gave All-CAA selection Keith Rendleman a rough time as well, limiting him to 13 points on 3-7 shooting.

“Stevie (Mejia) did a great job on the ball, but our big guys really battled,” Cassara said. “Our big guys were physical down there and they did a good job all night.”

Along with Mejia’s defense, the senior also led the Pride with 18 points. Rendleman accomplished his 14th double-double of the season, adding 10 rebounds to go along with his 13 points, but it wasn’t enough to push the Seahawks over the edge.

Just as the Seahawks (9-15, 4-8) took the lead 33-21, Hofstra’s (6-18, 3-8) low post carried them on a 10-0 run. From there on out, the big men for the Pride dominated, scoring 15 second-chance points in the 2nd half. Meanwhile, Jordan Allen recorded a CAA season-high with 7 steals, as Nwaukoni had a double-double (12pts, 10 rebs).

“31 (Kone) is a tough matchup. Nwaukoni is physical and strong,” said UNCW coach Buzz Peterson. “Maybe our post was extended out a little bit, out of position to box out, trying to chase those guards off. It’s hard to win when you give up so many offensive rebounds.”

The Seahawks went ice cold in the second half, shooting 31%, while the Pride shot 47%. The key change was the Pride’s transition defense improvement after the intermission. This started on the offensive end, as the Pride only turned the ball over four times in the second half, after 13 in the first.

“We had shots, we had good looks. It just didn’t go down,” Peterson said. “We also did a poor job in transition and converting.”

The outside game also showed itself for the Pride, as Buie hit a three-point dagger as the shot clock was winding down to put the Pride up nine with 2:20 remaining. The Pride finished 5 of 14 from downtown, while the Seahawks hit 3 of 14 from beyond the arc.

“We’ve been in an incredible amount of close games,” Cassara said. “I think a lot of teams, given some of the tough losses, would fold. Instead, we competed against a good team.”

“I got to give Hofstra a lot of credit for the 2nd half and the energy they came out with,” Peterson added. “They got the game going fast and we couldn’t make our shots.”