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Weekly UNCW Men’s Basketball Recap

• 11/23 - UNCW 78 Marshall 98 - Senior forward Elijah Pittman keyed a suffocating 16-2 run to end the first half and exploded for a career-high 35 points as Marshall sped past UNCW, 96-78, in a Saturday matinee at the Cam Henderson Center. The Herd improved to 3-2 with the high-scoring win in the second game of the Roundball Classic exempt event after suffering back-to-back overtime losses.
The Seahawks lost their second in a row and wrapped up a road-heavy early part of the schedule with a 3-4 mark.
Pittman scored in a variety of ways and led all scorers in the contest with his 35 points, including 22 in the first period. The Covington, Ky., product wound up hitting 13-of-21 field goals, including 8-of-13 from long distance, and added a free throw and seven rebounds to his full stat line. Freshman point guard Kareem Canty added 19 points, Chris Thomas scored 15 and Ryan Taylor contributed 11 for the Herd, which shot 59 percent on the day. JunIor guard Addison Spruill paced the Seahawks with 19 points, while junior forward Cedrick Williams collected 18 and seven rebounds, junior guard Freddie Jackson scored 11 and Ben Eblen chipped in 10. “He (Elijah Pitman) is talented and was certainly the difference today,” said fourth-year UNCW Head Coach Buzz Peterson. “We had no answer for him. To win, we had to play more zone because they’re so athletic. They let us back in the game, but Pittman hit so many big shots.” Pittman’s 35 markers fell just shy of the highest total by a UNCW opponent in a single game. James Madison’s Abdullah Jalloh poured in 37 against the Seahawks in a 99-85 win for the Dukes at Trask Coliseum on Feb. 9, 2008.
With the slippery Pittman torching the nets in the first half, the Herd raced out to a 48-29 cushion and led by as many as 21 points in the final stanza. The hot-shooting hosts shot 59 percent from the floor in the contest and made 11-of-19 from long distance.
Marshall led by 20 points two minutes into the second half, but the Seahawks used an 11-2 spurt to crawl back into the game. Spruill did most of the damage, scoring nine of the points, and the former Pender High School guard’s spin move at 15:57 pulled the Seahawks within 54-43.
But the Herd answered with buckets by Pittman and Canty to jumpstart a 16-6 run and the margin swelled back to 70-49. A three-ball by Pittman with 11:08 remaining staked the Herd to its largest lead of the game. It was all Pittman in the opening 20 minutes as the 6-9 senior drained four of his first five three-point field goal attempts to get the Herd off to a strong start. With the Herd clinging to a 17-16 lead after Jackson slipped inside for a layup at 12:27, TyQuane Goard scored on a bank shot from the free throw line and Pittman sank a three-ball to increase the margin to 22-16 at 11:29.
Pittman later connected on another trifecta with just over four minutes remaining to give the Herd a 35-27 cushion to start the critical run to end the half. Pittman had eight points in the spurt and Thomas added four points as the Herd scored 16 of the last 18 points in the period. The Seahawks shot 48.5 percent, but struggled from deep, going without a three-pointer in eight tries. It marked the first time since Nov. 26, 2011, that the Seahawks failed to have a three-point field goal, dating back to a 70-67 loss to Davidson. After a trying early part of the schedule, the Seahawks return to the coast to play two straight and five of their next six outings. NAIA member Campbellsville and former UNCW standout Keith Adkins visit Trask Coliseum Tuesday for a 7 p.m. tilt.
GAME NOTES: The Seahawks finished winless in the four-day, two-game road trip to Kentucky and West Virginia…Pittman’s 22 points at intermission was also one point off the record by an opponent in a half…UNCW had just nine turnovers in the game…The Seahawks never led in the contest…Eblen paced the team with four assists…It was a season-high in treys for Pittman…Spruill reached double figures in scoring for the fifth time in seven games…Sophomore guard Craig Ponder scored 26 points in last season’s loss in Huntington, but had just one field goal on Saturday…The Herd now leads the all-time series, 3-2…The Seahawks are 1-2 now in the Cam Henderson Center…Marshall had six dunks in the matchup.
• 11/18 - UNCW87 Liberty 76 - UNCW’s backcourt tandem of Addison Spruill and Tanner Milson combined for 47 points and the Seahawks converted 31-of-41 free throws to outslug Liberty, 87-76, in a scrappy non-conference men’s basketball game Monday night at the Vines Center.
The Seahawks won their third consecutive game and second straight on the road to improve to 3-2 on the season. The Flames dropped their third straight to plummet to 1-3.
Spruill, a junior college transfer, scored 14 of his game-high 24 points in the second half to share scoring honors with Liberty’s Davon Marshall. Milson added 23 points, including 16 in the opening half, while Ben Eblen and Cedrick Williams contributed 13 and 10 for the winners.
Marshall, a senior guard, paced the Flames with 24 points on 8-of-15 shooting. Senior guard John Caleb Sanders was the only other player in double digits for LU with 13. In a game that featured 56 fouls and a whopping 76 free throw attempts, the Seahawks led wire-to-wire to win for the third time in as many tries against the Flames. Fourth-year UNCW Head Coach Buzz Peterson also stayed perfect against Liberty, improving his record to 7-0 against the Virginia-based club.
The Seahawks have reeled off their first three-game winning streak since sweeping four straight games from Dec. 30, 2011, to Jan. 7, 2012.
“I never felt confortable until they missed some shots at the end under 20 seconds,” said Peterson. “We were very flat to start the second half. Tanner had a tremendous first half and Ben did a nice job of making some plays.” The Seahawks scored more than 80 points for the third straight game after opening the season with sub-par offensive performances in a Midwestern road trip to Iowa and Iowa State. The Seahawks shot a season-best 52.1 percent from the floor and missed just 10 free throws in 41 attempts for 75.6 percent at the charity stripe. The Flames, meanwhile, struggled early, shooting 29.6 percent in the first half, and improved after intermission to finish at 41.8 percent.
UNCW jumped out to a 36-25 lead at the break behind Milson, who scored 16 points in the period after totaling just 21 points through the first four games of the season. The first of his five three-pointers on the night gave the Seahawks a 14-9 edge and after he sank three free throws in succession, the Cedar Hill, Texas, product drained another triple to give UNCW a 20-9 cushion at the 10-minute mark of the first half. UNCW then carried an 11-point lead into the break after scoring the final five points of the half, including a 50-foot heave by Milson at the buzzer that electrified the 1,731 fans in attendance.
In the second half, the Flames managed to score the first five points of the period to close the gap to 36-30, but Eblen’s gliding layup with 15:56 remaining delivered the largest lead of the game for the Seahawks, 42-30.
UNCW still led, 51-41, when Spruill connected on a pair of free throws with 11:44 remaining before the Flames rallied. LU chipped away at the lead and closed to within, 58-54, on Tomasz Gielo’s first basket of the game at 7:59. However, UNCW used a 10-3 run to stretch the lead back to 68-57 on Milson’s fifth trifecta with 5:40 left.
The Seahawks sealed the game with solid free throw shooting down the stretch, going a perfect 10-for-10 at the foul line in the final 1:36.
GAME NOTES: The Seahawks had just nine turnovers in the game and only four in the first half…Williams has reached double figures in scoring in all five games this season…Seven Seahawks finished with at least three fouls…UNCW’s bench contributed 33 points…Each team made six three-pointers…LU pulled down 10 offensive rebounds…Eblen led the Seahawks in assists with five dimes…The Seahawks scored 22 points off turnovers…Spruill and Shane Reybold paced the Seahawks on the glass with five rebounds apiece…LU reserve JR Coronado had a game-high 12 rebounds.
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