WILMINGTON, North Carolina – Crafty freshman playmaker Kai Toews recorded his second consecutive double-double and UNCW used a torrid start to race past visiting ECU, 95-86, in Tuesday’s 66th pairing between the pair of eastern North Carolina rivals at Trask Coliseum.
The Seahawks, playing their fourth game in five days, won their second in a row and reached the .500 mark for the first time this season at 4-4. The Pirates dropped their second straight and stand an identical 4-4.
UNCW pushed its advantage in the longtime series to 37-29 by winning for the 10th time in the last 11 meetings. The Seahawks also increased their advantage to 23-7 at Trask Coliseum.
Junior forward Jeantal Cylla anchored five players in double figures for the Seahawks with 20 points. Toews scored 16 points to go along with 10 assists, sophomore guard Ty Gadsden and junior guard Jaylen Fornes chipped in 15 points apiece and redshirt junior guard Ty Taylor finished with 12.
Freshman forward Jayden Gardner scored a game-high 30 points for the Pirates. Junior guard Seth LeDay added 15 points, sophomore guard K.J. Davis pumped in 13 and sophomore guard Shawn Williams had 12.
The Seahawks shot a robust 57.1 percent to build a 46-35 lead at halftime and extended the margin to as many as 24 points midway through the second period before holding off the Pirates down the stretch.
ECU never led in the contest, but managed to close the deficit to seven points, 88-81, with just over a minute to play, but the Seahawks knocked down 7-of-8 free throws in the final 55 seconds to win their third in a row over their rivals at Trask Coliseum.
UNCW emerged out the lockerroom red-hot, blistering 14 of its first 19 field goal attempts to sprint out to a 37-21 cushion before the Pirates regrouped to climb within 46-35 at intermission.
Fornes came off the bench to give the Seahawks a big lift in the opening period. He made all four of his field goal tries – 3-for-3 from long range – to pace the Seahawks with 11 points in the early going, while Cylla racked up10 points in just five minutes.
Fornes sank his second triple of the half with 8:52 left to stake the Seahawks to their largest lead of the first stanza, 37-21. The Pirates answered with six straight points however, to close the gap to 37-28 and got the deficit down to eight points with just over two minutes left in the half before Fornes hit his third trifecta of the half to push the lead back to 46-35 at the break.
BIG-TIME BALANCE: The Seahawks placed five men in double figures for second time this season (vs. Allen, Nov. 18, 2018).
STATE OF THE UNION: The Seahawks now stand 1-3 against state opponents this season, with four more games on the docket for state foes (Davidson, North Carolina, Elon 2x).
PUSHING NINETY: UNCW scored more than 90 points for the third time this season and stand 2-1 in those contests.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS: The Seahawks beat the Pirates for the first time in three tries in November in the 66-game series.
KEY MOMENT: With 15:14 left in the first half, Ty Taylor drained a three-pointer from the left corner to increase the lead to 18-10 as the Seahawks made six consecutive shots.
QUOTABLE: “Four games in five days isn’t easy and we won three out of the four. I thought we came out with some energy and executed really well early. We made shots early when I thought we had some legs. We still got the same looks in the second half for the most part, but we were just a little short. That enable them to go on runs.” -UNCW Head Coach C.B. McGrath
NEXT UP: UNCW concludes a brief two-game homestand on Saturday when another North Carolina opponent, Davidson, visits Trask Coliseum. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m., with the Seahawk women’s team meeting Fayetteville State at 2 p.m.