WILMINGTON, N.C. - With the perimeter firmly secure by virtue of its NCAA-leading 3-point field goal defense, UNC Wilmington looks to lock down Old Dominion's potent inside game Wednesday in a key Colonial Athletic Association men's basketball matchup at Trask Coliseum.
The Seahawks, 6-9 overall and 2-3 in the CAA, hook up with the Monarchs in the only regular season meeting between the two teams. ODU carries a 12-5 overall record and 4-1 conference scorecard into the 7:05 p.m. televised contest.
"ODU was the preseason pick to win the conference and they're tied for first right now," reflected Benny Moss, UNCW's fourth-year coach. "They have incredible all-around size and can put some big lineups on the floor at the same time. They're also a very good defensive team. It's going to take a very good effort for us to hold home court because they attack the paint as well as anybody in the league."
In Monday's NCAA statistical rankings, the Seahawks ranked first among the nation's 334 schools in 3-point field goal defense, holding opponents to a paltry 23.4 percent behind the arc. UNCW has been near the top of the rankings throughout the season, limiting opponents to only 3.5 treys per contest. UNCW's last two opponents, Georgia State and George Mason, have gone a combined 2-for-20 from long distance.
"Our guys have really worked hard at executing our defensive game plan," added Moss. "It's a tribute to our team because we've worked hard at making our opponents shoot tough, contested three's. It's testimony to good execution by our players and, hopefully, something we can build on."
UNCW enters the game with an NCAA RPI rating of 146. Including ODU, rated No. 35, the Seahawks have played five schools in the top 50: William & Mary (15), Wake Forest (22), Richmond (26), ODU (35) and VCU (50).
"I think the tough schedule has helped us. It helped prepare us to go to William & Mary and pull off that road win, and then bounce back two nights later against a talented Georgia State team. We're starting to see dividends from a tough early schedule."
UNCW and ODU are meeting for the 43rd time since the series began on Dec. 8, 1979. The Monarchs own a 24-18 advantage and have won 10 of the last 12 meetings, including an 84-65 verdict last February in Norfolk.
The Monarchs, the only CAA team with a winning recored at Trask Coliseum, are led by preseason All-CAA center Gerald Lee, a 6-10, 250-pounder averaging 14.6 points and 4.8 rebounds. Sophomore guard Kent Bazemore (8.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg) and junior forward Ben Finney (8.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg) provide plenty of help in the scoring column.
ODU, which starts a senior, three juniors and a sophomore, has won three straight and six of its last seven outings.
Turnovers continue to plague the Seahawks in their bid to move up in the standings. The Seahawks are averaging 17.9 miscues per game and have committed 20 or more turnovers in four of the last five games.
Wednesday is only the seventh home game of the season for UNCW and the last until the Seahawks entertain James Madison on Jan. 23.