WILMINGTON, North Carolina – The UNCW men’s basketball team kicks off the new year by beginning its conference road schedule with a challenging two-game swing to James Madison and Towson.
The Seahawks, 4-10 and 0-1, are coming off a 73-67 home loss to the College of Charleston last Saturday in the CAA lid lifter for both clubs. The Dukes, 7-8 and 0-2, dropped a pair of road contests to William & Mary and Elon by a combined eight points last week to start their conference campaign.
“I was proud of the way we played defensively to hold them under 40 percent,” McGrath said of Saturday’s effort against the Cougars. “It didn’t turn out the way we wanted to, but it was the first conference game and we have 17 more. If we have five guys communicating defensively and being in the right spot at the right time, we’re going to win quite a few games. It’s going to take getting out on the court and doing it.
“We’re going on the road to win these games. We have to believe we can win. We’re going up there with a purpose, not because they’re on the schedule. We’re going up there to play better. The way you play better is to play as a team.
“Our execution offensively has been pretty darn good the last few games. We just need to start knocking down the open looks that we get.”
UNCW carries a six-game losing streak into Thursday’s key matchup at the JMU Convocation Center. The Seahawks, who last won on Nov. 27 vs. East Carolina, are looking for a fresh start as they ring in 2019.
Senior forward Devontae Cacok is certainly doing his part. The Riverdale, Ga., product put up 27 points and 19 rebounds on the Cougars, racking up his 43rd double-double and passing Keith Rendleman into No. 2 on the career list. He has totaled 1,298 points (10th all-time) and 1,013 rebounds (3rd all-time) in 110 career appearances.
In the NCAA’s weekly statistics, Cacok ranks 5th in double-doubles (8), 6th in offensive rebounds per game (3.93), 7th in total rebounds (156), 5th in rebounds per game (11.1), 30th in field goal percentage (.608) and 24th in defensive rebounds per game (7.21).
While Cacok is in the twilight of his storied career, rookie point guard Kai Toews is just starting his. The newcomer from Tokyo has started all 14 games points and averaged 7.5 assists, ranking him third among the nation’s NCAA Division I playmakers. With 105 helpers, he’s already matched John Goldsberry’s single record for assists by a Seahawk freshman.
JMU, meanwhile, opened league play with a 79-74 loss to the Tribe in Williamsburg last Friday before suffering a 68-65 setback at Elon on Sunday. Senior forward Tyler Seibring anchored three Elon players in double figures with 21 points as the Phoenix built a 37-28 edge at halftime and held on for the home win at the new Schar Center. Sophomore forward Dwight Wilson paced the Dukes with a double-double of 22 points and 10 boards.
Live Seahawk Digital Network (SDN) coverage of the UNCW-JMU contest starts at 6:45 p.m. with Mike Vaccaro, the “Voice of the Seahawks,” on the call. Visit UNCWsports.com/SDN for live audio coverage.
A radio broadcast of the game may be heard locally on 95.9 FM “The Breeze” | WKXB HD 2 – 95.9 FM and 99.9 HD2 and live stats are available at UNCWStats.com.
THE SERIES: UNCW owns a 40-34 edge in the 74-game series with JMU. UNCW took the inaugural game on Dec. 16, 1979, and captured 14 straight from Jan. 20, 2001, through Jan. 10, 2008. The Seahawks have won seven of the last 10 pairings between the two clubs. JMU snapped a seven-game losing streak to UNCW in the last matchup on Feb. 13, 2018, at the JMU Convocation Center.
SEAHAWKS AT THE CONVO: The Seahawks are 13-21 against JMU in Harrisonburg and 13-19 at the JMU Convocation Center. UNCW has won three of its last four games at the Convo, but stands 4-6 in Harrisonburg in the last 10 outings.
NEXT UP: Following Thursday’s game, the Seahawks scoot across northern Virginia to wrap up the two-game journey with a Saturday, Jan. 3, 2019, matinee at Towson. Tip-off is 2 p.m. at SECU Arena.
EVERYTHING SEAHAWKS: For more information on the UNCW men’s basketball team, visit UNCWsports.com and click on the men’s basketball button. Additional information is also available on UNCW’s social media channels: Facebook (UNCW Men’s Basketball), Twitter (@UNCWmenshoops), Instagram (UNCWBasketball).