Greensboro, NC – One year after accomplishing a school record 12-game winning streak, the UNCW men’s basketball team smashed the mark with a 66-61 victory over Colonial Athletic Association newcomer North Carolina A&T early Saturday at the Corbett Sports Center.
The Seahawks, 14-3 overall and 4-0 in the CAA, set up a highly-anticipated showdown with No. 23 Charleston with the hard-fought decision before 1,904 fans on the Aggies’ home floor. UNCW and CofC are set to collide on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Trask Coliseum.
N.C. A&T dropped to 6-11 and 1-3 in the circuit after losing for the sixth time in seven games. The Aggies are led by interim head coach Phillip Shumpert, who took over the helm of the program in late August.
“Give them a lot of credit,” said third-year UNCW head coach Takayo Siddle. “We have a group of special, special players. We have great support around us in the community. Our culture is as strong as anybody’s right now. Those 13 wins are all culture.”
Senior guard Maleeck Harden-Hayes pumped in a career-high 25 points on 9-for-16 shooting to anchor three Seahawks in double figures. Senior guard Shykeim Phillips contributed 14 points and senior forward Amari Kelly pitched in 10 for the Seahawks, who shot 50 percent in the second half and dropped in 19-for-21 at the free throw line.
Sophomore guard Kam Woods scored 24 points to pace the Aggies, including 16 in a hot first half. Junior guard Demetric Horton added 14 points and backcourt mate Love Bettis had 13 for N.C. A&T, which staged a furious rally down the stretch.
UNCW led by as many as 15 points midway through the second half before N.C. A&T climbed with one point at the two-minute mark. The Seahawks, however, came up with several big plays in the final 60 seconds to nail down their fifth consecutive road victory of the season.
Leading early in the second half, the Seahawks used a 9-0 run over a 3:02 stretch midway through the half to pull ahead 47-33. The active Harden-Hayes scored seven of the nine points in a productive final period for the club.
UNCW still led, 51-36, with 11;48 to go, but the Aggies stormed back with a 20-6 run and Horton cut the lead to 57-56 with a jumper on the right wing at 2:03.
Kelly then slammed his third dunk of the game with 1:43 left and Trazarien White added an acrobatic bank shot with 55 seconds on the clock to get the margin back to 61-56. Harden-Hayes made a pair of free throws with 32 seconds remaining to get the lead back to 63-56 before the Seahawks closed out the road victory.
UNCW returns home to entertain longtime rival and No. 23 Charleston on Wednesday in a 7 p.m. tip at Trask Coliseum. Tickets for the contest are on sale daily in the UNCW Ticket Office or can be purchased online at UNCWsports.com/BuyTickets.
Source: Joe Browning, UNCW Senior Associate A.D.