I was glad to make the relatively short drive to Wilmington from Conway after work on Wednesday to check out UNCW taking on James Madison. I had been to Wilmington for four games so far this season, but they were all during Thanksgiving or Christmas break so I hadn't gotten a chance to see what Trask Coliseum is like with a full contingent.
I could tell the difference right away as I wasn't able to get to a prime parking spot as I had before with classes obviously being in session. This gave me a considerable walk to the arena. I got inside Trask with about 15 minutes to spare and noticed the student section was already filled, and I was impressed since it encompasses one whole side of the lower section. I've been told that Trask rarely sells out, so it was nice to see that they don't turn students away once their section is filled, but rather let them fill up the upper sections.
James Madison seemed akin to the previous two teams I had seen at UNCW, Furman and Delaware. JMU is very much a football school like the other two even though coach Matt Brady has had a bit of success recently with two 20-win seasons in the past three years. This year the Dukes haven't started out too well though in the CAA with a 1-5 record.
UNC-Wilmington would come in on a downturn as they had easily been dispatched by Georgia St. and Drexel in the previous week. The Seahawks would also be without head coach Buzz Peterson, who was serving a game suspension after getting ejected from the Drexel game. Assistant Jamie Kachmarik would be manning the ship on the night.
You could tell from the opening tip that the place had a lot more energy to it. The student section was by no means raucous, but they were lively and stood for the entirety of the game. Even though this was the 30th game I have gone to, I have yet to have been in an arena where the crowd is in full effect. Prior to this year my experiences were only with Coastal Carolina, which leaves a lot to be desired, so it'll be fun to see who has the best fans, bands, and cheerleaders now that we're settled into conference play.
The game started out and neither team ran out to much of an advantage. UNCW wasn't good defensively and JMU was able to get to the rim, but they blew a bunch of close chances. The Dukes could have had a big lead, but those missed opportunities left the Seahawks in the game. Wilmington wasn't getting into the lane as frequently as JMU, but they did have their fair share of open looks that were often times missed badly.
Towards the end of the half some decent offense was finally materializing. JMU's Humpty Hitchens went off for 17 in the half and was also the recipient of a "Humpty Dumpty" chant any time he touched the ball from the students. It didn't seem to faze the senior guard too much, I'm sure he's heard it before, as he led the Dukes to a three point halftime lead.
During the half I was hoping for a bit more entertainment, but we got a short performance from the dance team and not much else. Trask got a big renovation before the season and adding a new HD scoreboard above center court was the biggest addition. You could tell pretty quickly who is helping pay for it as we were subjected to TV commercials for a good chunk of halftime.
The second half started with a huge burst of energy from UNCW's Keith Rendleman. First, there was a steal and a breakaway dunk to start things.
He then went on to make a few more hustle plays by diving out of bounds and saving a ball by throwing it off a Dukes player and then there was a huge rejection that really fired up the crowd. The problem was that the rest of his teammates weren't delivering. JMU was slowly creeping away with the game despite Rendleman's best efforts. Hitchens was getting help from JMU leading scorer AJ Davis as they established an 11-point lead, forcing a quick timeout.
Whatever Coach Kachmarik said worked, though, as UNCW scored the next 11 points to tie the game at 51. It looked like James Madison was about to fold, especially being the road team, but they responded well. Davis and Hitchens kept the pressure on and the layups that were missing the mark in the first were now falling. UNCW became stagnant on offense at the worst possible time with no ball or player movement. The contested jumpers weren't close and the Dukes put an exclamation point on the game with an Enoch Hood dunk with just over a minute to go.
James Madison showed a lot of resolve in being able to weather the storm on the road and get the 69-61 victory. Wilmington may not be an upper echelon team in the CAA, but a road win is hard to get in any sort of conference play. The Seahawks are becoming a bit porous defensively as Rendleman can't do it all alone. Adam Smith, who looked so good earlier in the year, may be hitting the freshman wall as he has struggled as of late and only netted five on the night.
It was great to take in a different college game experience for once with everything in full effect. I'm looking forward to what the rest of the season may bring; I've got 10 games to go to in 11 days in 4 different states and 9 different arenas so I should be able to get a good chance to explore Our Game.
JAMES MADISON 69, at NORTH CAROLINA-WILMINGTON 61 01/18/2012
JAMES MADISON 9-9 (2-5) -- H. Hitchens 9-14 5-8 27; A. Davis 7-14 3-7 18; D. Moore 2-9 1-3 5; E. Hood 7-13 0-0 14; A. Semenov 0-3 0-2 0; A. Marks 1-1 0-0 3; A. Diouf 1-4 0-0 2; G. Swindle 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-58 9-20 69. NORTH CAROLINA-WILMINGTON 7-10 (3-4) -- K. Rendleman 5-10 2-7 12; D. Morales 5-11 3-4 14; F. Jackson 2-5 3-4 8; K. Simmons 4-10 1-2 12; A. Smith 2-7 0-0 5; C. Williams 1-4 1-2 3; M. Wilson 1-1 0-2 2; T. Milson 1-3 0-0 2; T. Deloach 1-4 1-2 3; N. Anderson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-55 11-23 61.
Three-point goals: JMU 6-13 (A. Semenov 0-1; A. Davis 1-4; A. Hitchens 4-7; A. Marks 1-1), UNCW 6-18 (T. Deloach 0-1; T. Milson 0-2; D. Morales 1-2; F. Jackson 1-3; K. Simmons 3-6; A. Smith 1-4); Rebounds: JMU 34 (D. Moore 8), UNCW 38 (K. Rendleman 17); Assists: JMU 15 (D. Moore 4), UNCW 10 (K. Rendleman 2); Total Fouls -- JMU 16, UNCW 15; Fouled Out: JMU-A. Semenov; UNCW-None.