UNCW basketball routs Milligan in season opener at Trask Coliseum

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Redshirt senior guard Craig Ponder scored 20 of his game-high 26 points in the first half and UNCW blew past NAIA member Milligan College 100-62 on  Friday night in the season opener for the Seahawks at Trask Coliseum.

Ponder led all scorers on 8-of-12 shooting and was joined in double figures by four other Seahawks – Devonate Cacok (13), C.J. Bryce (13), Trey Gundy (11) and Chris Flemmings (10). It was the most points scored by the Seahawks since a 105-47 drubbing of St. Andrews in the fifth game of the 2014-15 campaign.

Craig Ponder. Photo courtesy- UNCW Athletics
Craig Ponder. Photo courtesy- UNCW Athletics

“I was very pleased with our effort tonight,” said UNCW second-year Head Coach Kevin Keatts. “Our guys were very aggressive and we were able to play our style of basketball. We had a very good crowd and there was a lot of energy in the building.”

The Seahawks opened quickly on the smaller Buffaloes, connecting on four of their first five field goal attempts, including three straight behind the arc to grab a 12-6 lead just four minutes into the contest.

Milligan, which advanced to the NAIA National Tournament one year ago, grabbed an 18-14 advantage on a layup with 13:11 left in the first period by freshman forward Will Buckner, but
UNCW then took control by reeling off 13 unanswered points for a 27-18 cushion and extended the advantage to 32-20 when Bryce dropped in a free throw at 6:42. The Seahawks went into the break with a 52-35 margin behind 50 percent shooting from the field.

Ponder, out of Bluefield, W.Va., closed out the first half with 20 points on 7-of-9 shooting, including 3-of-4 from deep. The total equaled his career high set on Nov. 18, 2014, vs. UNC Greensboro at the Greensboro Coliseum.

Seahawk junior center Chuck Ogbodo, a 6-9, 230-pounder from Enugu, Nigeria, matched the school record for blocks in a game with six swats, tying John Fields, Garry Cooper, Matt Fish and Major Wiggins for the honor. Fields was the most recent player to tie the record when he had six blocks in a 79-59 victory over Campbell on Dec. 14, 2009.

UNCW also broke the single game record for free throws attempted, going 34-for-51 at the charity stripe. That snapped the old mark of 48 tries in an 81-73 victory over Murray State on Dec. 3, 1994.

The Seahawks continue their season-opening three-game homestand on Monday when Ohio Valley Conference opponent Eastern Kentucky visits Wilmington for a 7 p.m. start.