Seahawks, Tigers Set For High Noon Clash
Courtesy: UNCW Athletic Communications
RICHMOND, Va. - UNC Wilmington and Towson tipped it off twice during the 2009-10 regular season, but those games will be a distant memory when the two clubs meet at High Noon Friday in the opening game of the 2010 Colonial Athletic Association Men's Basketball Championship.
The No. 8 seeded Tigers and No. 9 seeded Seahawks kick off the afternoon session at the 12,500-seat Richmond Coliseum. No. 5 VCU and No. 12 Delaware tangle in the 2:30 p.m. contest.
"This is what we've been working toward all season," said interim head coach Brooks Lee, who took over the program on Jan. 29. The Seahawks have fashioned a 2-7 record since that date, with an 80-72 decision over the Tigers on Feb. 11 one of those victories.
"We've made a lot of progress over the last nine games and look forward to battling Towson again in the tournament. They certainly have a formidable team and it will be a difficult task. We will have to play very, very well to keep our dream of making the NCAA Tournament alive."
The Seahawks, 9-21 overall and 5-13 in conference play, were picked to finish last in the circuit and ended up tied for ninth place. With four players nursing injuries, including leading scorers Chad Tomko (13.1 ppg) and John Fields (10.2 ppg), Lee's club must reach deep inside to advance.
"We're banged up a little right now," Lee said. "It's not an excuse for us. We're going into Friday's game with a positive mindset and believe in ourselves. It all comes down to execution and preparing to play as well as we possibly can."
UNCW and Towson are meeting for the 23rd time on Friday. The Seahawks lead the series, 14-8, and have won seven of the last 10 matchups. The Tigers did eliminate the Seahawks in an opening round game of the 2007 tourney on the same floor.
Lee said, "We know Towson will be ready to play. Coach Kennedy does a terrific job and they have a talented lineup with some weapons. Josh Thornton, Calvin Lee, Robert Nwankwo and Jarrel Smith give them a lot of firepower."
Towson enters the tournament on a roll, winning five of its last nine games, and knocked off William & Mary (83-77) and Delaware (81-66) last week. Nwankwo, a junior forward, leads the CAA in rebounding (9.2 rpg), field goal percentage (.565) and blocked shots (79). Lightning-quick sophomore Troy Franklin is the reining CAA Player-of-the-Week after scoring a career-high 27 points, including 13 in the final seven minutes, to spark the Tiger's upset at W&M.
The Seahawks, the No. 9 seed for the first time, are making their 26th appearance in the CAA Championship and 21st visit to the Richmond Coliseum. UNCW is seeking its fifth CAA title after winning the event in 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2006
UNCW stands 31-21 in the CAA Tournament, but dropped a 79-66 verdict to Hofstra and high-scoring guard Charles Jenkins in the first round one year ago.
In Friday's night session, No. 7 Hofstra and No. 10 Georgia State battle at 6 p.m. and No. 6 Drexel takes on No. 11 James Madison at 8:30 p.m.