WILMINGTON, NC Feb. 15, 2013 – UNCW seeks to avenge a four-point loss to Colonial Athletic Association frontrunner Northeastern when the Huskies visit Trask Coliseum Saturday for the festive Homecoming game on campus.
The Seahawks, 9-16 overall and 4-9 in the CAA, have lost two in a row and five of their last six outings. The Huskies, 17-9 and 12-2, hold a 2.5-game lead atop the league standings and survived a 68-64 scare to UNCW early last month.
“Northeastern has really played well lately, especially their guards,” said UNCW Head Coach Buzz Peterson, who is completing his third season on the sidelines. “Joel Smith is a Player-of-the-Year candidate and has been playing very well. We were right there early in the year until we made some turnovers that really hurt us.
“We’re excited about playing the game and hope a lot of fans will show up to support the team on Homecoming.”
UNCW will be attempting to get back on track after coming up short in a dramatic comeback Wednesday at William & Mary. The Seahawks trailed by 25 points with 11 minutes remaining before chopping the deficit to one possession with just over a minute to play. The Tribe then hung on for a 92-86 triumph to snap a four-game losing streak to the Seahawks at Kaplan Arena.
The Seahawks and Huskies are only playing for the 12th time. NU joined the CAA during the 2005-06 season, but only four of the 11 meetings have been played in Wilmington. The two teams have split the four contests, but the last three pairings have all been in Boston.
“Coach (Bill) Coen has done a great job with them this year,” said Peterson. “They have veteran guards and that always helps. They’ve won a lot of close games, so they know how to win.”
The Huskies are the CAA’s top offensive bunch, averaging 69.5 ppg, and rank second in field goal percentage (.450) and free throw percentage (.754). NU has also connected on 181-of-481 three-point tries to lead the circuit with a 37.6 percent clip.
“This game will be a strong test for us defensively,” added Peterson. “They are a very patient team that doesn’t beat themselves. We’ll have to be very focused on the defensive end and be ready to meet the challenge.”
Crafty senior Joel Smith leads the team and ranks fourth in the CAA with 17.0 ppg. He’s questionable after suffering a leg injury against William & Mary last week. Even so, the Huskies have plenty of firepower left behind three other players who average in double digits, including senior Jonathan Lee at 13.8 ppg.
Smith is the reigning CAA Player-of-the-Week after averaging 23.0 ppg and 5.0 rpg to lead the Huskies to a pair of road wins last week. He shot 56 percent from the floor, including 7-of-16 from long distance, and made 13-of-16 free throws for NU.
UNCW will counter with CAA First-Teamer Keith Rendleman and the emerging guard tandem of Chris Dixon and Craig Ponder. The Seahawks are tied for the fewest home losses this season among CAA clubs with just three setbacks on their home floor.
Rendleman, a 6-8, 220-poound senior from Iron Station, N.C., is only the seventh player in CAA history to score 1,000 points and grab 1,000 rebounds. He will be starting his 119th game in a Seahawk uniform and brings in career totals of 1,404 points and exactly 1,000 rebounds.
More importantly, Rendleman, who makes his 104th career start, is closing in on all-time great Brian Rowsom’s rebounding mark. The bouncy Rendleman needs just 16 rebounds to eclipse Rowsom’s record of 1,015 boards from 1984-87. He is also 12th among NCAA Division players with 12.4 rebounds per game.
Dixon, a junior transfer, ranks second on the team with 9.8 ppg and is chipping in 3.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists. Ponder, a redshirt freshman, is collecting 9.0 rpg and ranks 11th in the CAA in free throw accuracy.
The Seahawks are playing for the 12th time on Feb. 16 in their history. UNCW stands on the date, including 1-3 in home games. Ironically, the last time the Seahawks played on Feb. 16 was Feb. 16, 2010, when Northeastern handed UNCW a 65-56 home loss at Trask Coliseum.
Following Saturday’s battle with the Huskies, the Seahawks travel to Old Dominion on Wednesday, Feb. 20, for their final trip to the Ted Constant Center. ODU is leaving the CAA next season for the courts of Conference USA.