UNCW hoops get back on track at Billy Minardi Classic in Louisville

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Freshman guard C.J. Bryce anchored five players in double figures with a career-high 17 points as UNCW skinned Utah Valley’s Wolverines 102-77 in the opening game of Louisville’s 14th Billy Minardi Classic on Tuesday at the KFC Yum! Center.

The Seahawks conclude their pre-Christmas schedule on Wednesday with a 4:15 p.m. tip-off against Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) in another first-time meeting between both clubs. The Kangaroos lost to host Louisville in Tuesday’s nightcap, 75-47.

UNCW got back in the win column on Tuesday night. Photo courtesy- UNCW sports
UNCW got back in the win column on Tuesday night. Photo courtesy- UNCW sports

The Seahawks improved to 6-3 after erupting for a season-high 55 points in the first half and registering their most lopsided win since a 101-62 thumping of Milligan in the season opener 39 days ago at Trask Coliseum.

“We started off slowly because we lost some of their guys early,” said second-year UNCW head coach Kevin Keatts. “But our guys ended up playing well on both ends of the floor tonight.

“It was a team effort. We wanted to establish our offensive game from the inside out, and I was very impressed with our rebounding. The result was not only important because we won, but because some guys got some game experience.”

Bryce, the only Seahawk to start all nine contests, showed he’s game tested, making 6 of 10 shots for his career-best total and grabbing a career-high seven rebounds. Redshirt senior guard Craig Ponder and freshman guard Mark Matthews added 15 points apiece, while redshirt junior guard Denzel Ingram contributed 14.

The Seahawks pulled down 50 rebounds for the first time since snaring 52 caroms in a 72-55 home victory over Campbellsville on Nov. 26, 2013. Five different players had at least five boards in Tuesday’s convincing win.

In the inaugural meeting between the two teams, UNCW used 52.5 percent shooting in the first half to carve out a 55-36 advantage at halftime and poured it on down the stretch. Overall, 13 players saw action and 12 scored for the Seahawks, who wound up shooting 49.4 percent on 38-of-77 field goals.

Three Seahawks reached double figures in the opening half as Ingram (12), Ponder (11) and Chris Flemmings (10) keyed the team in the first stanza.