WILMINGTON — Colonial Athletic Association Preseason Player of the Year Chris Flemmings matched his career high with 28 points to power UNCW past NCAA Division II Claflin, 110-64, in the 2016-17 season debut for the defending CAA men’s basketball champions late Friday at Trask Coliseum.
The Seahawks won their season opener for the second straight year behind a balanced scoring attack and 51.3 percent shooting. UNCW next embarks on its first road game on Monday when the Seahawks travel to Richmond, Ky., to battle Eastern Kentucky in a 7 p.m.
“I’m happy with the way we played, especially in the first half,” said Kevin Keatts, UNCW’s third-year head coach. “It’s tough when you play with a big lead. I thought we did some great things.
“We’re doing a good job of getting our hands on balls. We’ve worked very hard on becoming a good half-court defensive team.”
Flemmings was nearly flawless in his first performance of the new campaign, going 8-for-9 from the floor and connecting on all nine of his free throw attempts in the rout. Sophomore guard C.J. Bryce added 23 points, graduate guard Ambrose Mosley chipped in 16, senior guard Denzel Ingram had 15 and sophomore forward Devontae Cacok finished with 14.
The Seahawks improved to 40-7 lifetime against NCAA Division II opponents, including nine consecutive victories since the 1996 season. The 46-point win was the second largest in UNCW’s three seasons under Keatts.
In a fast-paced style reminiscent of their run to the 2016 CAA title, the Seahawks jumped out quickly on the smaller Panthers and never let up, leading by as many as 55 points in the inaugural pairing between the two clubs.
Following a sluggish start, the Seahawks, behind Bryce and Flemmings, kicked it into high gear to grab control. With the score squared at 2-all, Bryce reeled off six straight points and Flemmings added a pair of three-pointers and free throw as the Seahawks bolted out to a 15-4 margin with just under 16 minutes left in the opening stanza.
The Seahawks cruised to their largest lead of the first half with 40 seconds left when Mosley drained his third triple of the first period as UNCW took a 62-22 cushion into the break.
UNCW continued to pad its lead after intermission and rolled to its largest margin, 98-43, with 7:35 remaining on a Bryce dunk.