Seadhawks, Panthers Open CAA Tourney
Courtesy: UNCW Athletic Communications
RICHMOND, Virginia - UNCW's new coach, Buzz Peterson, faces an even newer one, Georgia State's Paul Graham, when the eighth-seeded Seahawks battle the No. 9 Panthers on Friday at Noon in the 2011 Colonial Athletic Association Men's Basketball Championship opener at the Richmond Coliseum.
The 13-17 Seahawks and 11-18 Panthers will play for the right to take on top-seeded George Mason on Saturday in one of four quarterfinal matchups. Peterson is making his CAA Tournament debut, while Graham is coaching GSU for the first time after being named interim coach on Sunday with the release of Rod Barnes.
"It's definitely a unique situation, but we'll plan and prepare the same way," said Peterson. "We played Georgia State twice during the season and both games were very close. I expect another tough battle in the tournament."
The two teams split the regular season series. It took a buzzer-beater by junior guard Trevor Deloach to give the Seahawks a 59-56 victory over GSU on Jan. 3 at Trask Coliseum. The Panthers returned the favor in a 63-58 overtime thriller at the GSU Sports Arena on Feb. 2 in Atlanta.
"They are very deep and very talented," added Peterson, who stands 16-11 in post-season conference tournament play through 12 seasons. "We will have to stick to our game plan and execute well."
UNCW and GSU are meeting for only the 15th time on Friday. The Seahawks lead the series, 8-6, but the Panthers have won four of the last six matchups between the two teams. Three Seahawks - Chad Tomko (19.0 ppg), Trevor Deloach (14.0 ppg) and Keith Rendleman (13.0 ppg) - have averaged in double figures in the two games with GSU this season
In their last appearance before the CAA Tournament, the Seahawks dropped a 78-68 score to Northeastern last Saturday in Boston. Tomko and Rendleman each scored 19 points, but NU answered with 52.9 percent shooting and 17-for-23 at the free throw line to complete a sweep of the regular season series.
The Seahawks, predicted to finish 12th in the CAA's preseason poll for the second straight year, wound up eighth in the CAA standings. UNCW has tied or won outright five regular season championships. UNCW tied for the league title in 1997 and 1998, won back-to-back regular season crowns in 2002 and 2003 and tied again in 2006.
In last year's CAA Tournament, No. 8 Towson raced out to a 52-30 halftime lead and breezed to a 91-74 triumph over No. 9 UNCW in a first-round matchup at the Richmond Coliseum. RaShawn Polk poured in 20 points to lead four players in double figures for Towson, which shot 50.8 percent for the game. The Tigers led by as many as 30 points before the final 17-point verdict. Dominique Lacy paced four Seahawks in double digits for UNCW with 13 points.
UNCW is making its 27th appearance in the CAA Championship and 22nd visit to the Richmond Coliseum. Overall in the CAA Tournament, the Seahawks have lost in the first round three times, been eliminated in the quarterfinals five times, advanced to the semifinals 18 times and reached the championship nine times.