Senior guard Craig Ponder scored 24 points and graduate forward Dylan Sherwood matched his career high with 16 as UNCW won its second straight game to open the new season with a 78-59 verdict over visiting Eastern Kentucky on Monday night at Trask Coliseum.
The Seahawks improved to 2-0 and close out their season-opening three-game home stand on Saturday when Western Michigan visits for a 7 p.m. tip. UNCW led wire-to-wire against the Colonels to win its first two contests for the first time since the beginning of the 2008-09 campaign.
“I’m excited because we did some really good things tonight,” said second-year UNCW Head Coach Kevin Keatts. “They have a very good basketball team, so we wanted to make sure we defended well. We wanted to turn them into more of an individual team. I was very happy with our effort.”
Ponder and Sherwood were complemented in the scoring column by junior transfer Denzel Ingram, who contributed 15 points and four assists in his first appearance of the season. Junior center Chuck Ogbodo added seven points, nine rebounds and four blocks in 17 minutes.
UNCW bolted out to a 38-27 lead at halftime behind Sherwood’s inspired play and extended the margin to 14 points early in the second stanza before the Colonels cut into the lead.
After Ponder’s jumper on the right elbow staked the Seahawks to a 47-33 edge at the 17:22 mark, EKU sliced the advantage to seven points. Mayo, who scored 10 of EKU’s first 13 points in the second period, connected on a driving layup to bring the Colonels within 47-40 at 14:53.
But the Seahawks reeled off eight unanswered points to get the cushion back to 15 points when Sherwood’s second triple of the game gave UNCW a 55-40 bulge with 13:42 showing.
“We did a tremendous job coming out strong in the first part of the game. They have some weapons, but we limited their touches. Dylan (Sherwood) was the MVP of the game. He had a great night.”
UNCW registered it largest lead of the night, 78-57, with 37 seconds left when Ingram dropped in a pair of free throws.