By Ethan Marsh, Reporter
PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND - Duke overcame UNCW’s attempt to dethrone them today amid foul trouble by UNCW and applying more defense, but UNCW made one thing clear - they are a great team that has potential and is one of the best that the program has seen in it’s history.
Senior Craig Ponder made his ultimate farewell in today’s game in Providence, Rhode Island. Reported by ESPN.com, Ponder said "Our motto is pretty much we don't worry about the name on the back of our jerseys, and we don't care about the name on the front of yours," said Craig Ponder,"We just try to go out and compete every game." UNCW is not a team to be overlooked or a team to be walked over as they proved today. Ponder led the team in points with 22 that included 3 shots beyond the arc and also added 4 of each in rebounds and assists.
Ponder has been the ultimate leader and success story at UNCW as he now stands as the most appeared in a Seahawk Uniform with 126 games. In other words, he has appeared in more games than any Seahawk ever. He didn’t just appear in those games, he contributed to the point of being a leader and he really made a difference on the UNCW squad this season by making one of the best in it’s history. Ponder will be remembered in the Dub forever in the same like as Brett Blizzard.
Duke’s Head Coach of 36 years Mike Krzyzewski said after the game that UNCW is a great basketball team, that his team just played better. Coach K of Duke had told his team that UNCW was not a team to overlook as Duke had lost in the first round in 2012 and 2014. According to espn.com, Coach K made sure it was known to the team at halftime that they needed to get their act together as UNCW led 43-40 at halftime. Coach K is known to win in Durham as he had led the team to 5 National Championships, including the one last season. Despite his credibility and experience, Coach K recognized the greatness of Coach Kevin Keatts and his UNCW team by respecting them. Great sportsmanship defines great coaches just as much as winning. Coach Keatts and Coach Krzyzewski exhibit these qualities. Coach K shook Coach Keatts hand after the game with the respect that Keatts deserves for making UNCW what it is.
The three pointer is what made UNC Wilmington performance what it was and also great determination to play whoever with all they had. The team made 11 3 pointers on 42.3 percent 3 point shooting. UNCW made it a competitive matchup in the 1st half going neck and neck with Duke in the beginning as it was tied at 14-14 roughly 9 minutes into the matchup. Duke went up 19-14 and UNCW held a timeout. Then UNCW gallopped on a 17-9 run to make the lead theirs 31-28 a little over 4 minutes before the half. UNC Wilmington led by 7 at 41-34 less than a minute into the half. Duke made a couple of three pointers of their own before the half to make the score closer than it had been at 43-40 into the half.
These three pointers before the half were Duke just warming up. The Blue Devils went on a 14-0 run shortly after the Seahawks were up 46-42 a little over a minute into the 2nd half. UNC Wilmington then scored a 3 by Denzel Ingram to close the gap a little to 56-49. Duke extended it’s largest lead at 61-49 shortly thereafter. The rest of the game was characterized by UNCW not playing like it had in the 1st by not getting the rebound as much as it needed to and also committing fouls. This made it where UNCW stayed within 10 and only got as close as 5 towards the ending. Duke also exemplified much more forceful defense as UNC Wilmington could only get off a few three pointers to stay in the game. This is not what went on in the first half as UNC Wilmington applied much more efficient defensive strategy in the first half. Duke decided to be much more forceful on defense in the 2nd half. UNC Wilmington got within 5 at 90-85 as Denzel Ingram made the 7th and final 3 pointer of the 2nd half by UNCW with 1:27 left. The rest of the game included a couple of missed three pointers by UNCW and Duke Free Throws to make the final 93-85.
Craig Ponder was the top playmaker of this matchup for the Seahawks in his final game. Chris Flemmings, who was the MVP for the CAA tournament, followed with 18 points of his own that included 2 3 pointers. Denzel Ingram was the 3-point king as he made 5 3 pointers for the day and had a total of 17 points. C.J. Bryce, who has also been a large contribution to UNC Wilmington this season, scored 16 and added 8 rebounds.
Foul trouble is two words that can best explain how the 2nd half of this matchup went. This led to C.J. Gettys being fouled out with 10 minutes left in the game and Craig Ponder being fouled out in the final seconds. Marshall Plumlee of Duke who had his career-best 23 points was fouled out with 2 minutes left as well. UNCW was only fouled by Duke 19 times and made 14 free throws. On the other hand, UNCW committed a total of 43 fouls on the Blue Devils and Duke came away with 31 made free throws in the matchup. This constituted 33 percent or a third of their points. Duke would have probably not walked away with the win without all the free throws. Some of the supposed fouls UNC Wilmington committed had Seahawks fans in anguish as it did not really appear that a Seahawk player actually touched the Duke player enough for it to be deemed a foul. It almost appeared the refs were on Duke’s side by calling these fouls that were not really fouls. Some of them were truly fouls but the others were really not. Duke also committed some rough play as Chris Flemmings was taken down to the ground a couple of times. This game was not played fairly.
Despite the loss in this 1st round of the NCAA Tourney and coming up short amid foul trouble on dethroning the defending National Champions, UNC Wilmington still proved that they are a great basketball team that can play with a National opponent and isn’t a team to be overlooked. The Seahawks still have had an ultimate season for the ages as they tied the all-time record of
25-8 and tied the regular season wins total at 22 this season. UNC Wilmington also won its 5th CAA Tournament. UNCW will not slow down as the majority of the team will return next year except for Craig Ponder, Dylan Sherwood, and Kevin Hickson. UNCW will be looking to do as great if not better next season in the 2016-17 campaign. Duke will continue on to the 2nd round to play No. 12 seed Ivy League School Yale on Saturday.