Game #9-027: North Carolina-Asheville at North Carolina-Wilmington SeahawksNovember 11, 2012 2:00 pm
In years past, Sundays in the fall were a very basic routine for me. I'd wake up and turn on whatever NFL pregame show that was airing three or four hours before the first kickoff. By the time noon hit, I would start to get ready for the day before heading out to one of the numerous sports bars in the area to watch the Detroit Lions.
The plight of being a Lions fan is well documented. They had some success in the 90s with Barry Sanders and a bevy of mediocre quarterbacks, but the past 15 years or so have not been too kind to say the least. Even with all the downtrodden years, I would almost instinctively do the same thing every Sunday despite actually being a bigger fan of basketball all of my life.
It was not until this most recent NFL season started that I truly started to question why I was doing this to myself. My interest in general in the NFL had waned considerably and having to listen to people about their fantasy team is like nails on a chalkboard to me. Last weekend at one point, there were eight different games on at one time and all of them were at commercial and it was not even near halftime.
I could not take it anymore. Last week, even though the Lions won handily, which happens once every four years, I was mainly just waiting for the time to run out so I could get on with the rest of my day. That is why when I saw that UNC Asheville would be playing at UNC Wilmington, I knew what I would be doing the following Sunday. I had been to Wilmington numerous times the previous year and always had an enjoyable experience, so it would be a much better option than intentionally torturing myself.
I had a lot of intrigue going into the game since I wanted to see the makeup of both teams that were getting a bit of an overhaul. UNCW was slapped with an APR ban
for this year and will not be eligible for any postseason tournaments. With this news, they had a slew of transfers, and a bunch of newcomers changing the direction of the team.
One player who had the chance to transfer anywhere and play immediately was Preseason All CAA selection Keith Rendleman. He could have bolted to a team above the Red Line, but stayed at UNCW due to the loyalty he had
to the school and the program.
Asheville was coming off some heavy losses of its own, but it was due to graduation that saw Matt Dickey, JP Primm, and Chris Stephenson depart from a team that pushed Syracuse
in the NCAA Tournament. Those three players accounted for more than 44 points a game last year.
In addition, Jaron Lane, another double figure scorer, would be out with an injury for the day's game. A lot of the scoring and leadership load would be heaped upon Jeremy Atkinson and returning big man DJ Cunningham, who had to sit out all of last year due to injury.
While UNCW has inexplicably raised the ticket prices a few dollars, they still have they great deals at the concessions. Five dollars will still get you a hot dog, box of popcorn and a drink, which is probably the best deal outside of Furman
. I settled into my seat which is near half court in the upper deck. I did not look at my ticket or anything as the crowd is usually pretty sparse in the upper bowl, so you can sit wherever you'd like without any hassle.
The crowd that did show up got to see Rendleman be acknowledged before the game for scoring his 1,000th point in the last game of the previous season. It was, however, Rendleman's other abilities that made him such a great player at the beginning of the game with a few steals, deflections and boards in the first few minutes.
The other bigs for the Seahawks were causing problems early on also, but after Asheville settled down and stopped turning the ball over so much they came back with some inside work from Cunningham. Much of the first half was UNCA slowly creeping ahead to a 25-19 lead. UNCW got stagnant on offense and were not moving without the ball, leading to forced shots or turnovers late in the shot clock. It wasn't until two minutes to go that the Seahawks showed some signs of life with consecutive threes from Dylan Sherwood and Tyree Graham.
The second half became very physical and chippy from the start There was a tech on the first possession with some pushing and shoving from UNCW's Tanner Milson. Asheville's aggressive play had them in the bonus with 14 minutes left to play and they forced Rendleman out a minute later with his fourth foul. This is when the Bulldogs could have taken full advantage of the game, but they only got the lead up to four points before Atkinson had to sit with his fourth foul.
At this point, the game could have swung either way since each team's best player was on the bench. Asheville used a collective effort mainly fueled by Will Weeks while the Seahawks had sophomore big man Cedrick Williams step up in a big way, cleaning the glass, scoring inside and being a defensive pest. Williams showed flashes last year, but consistency was his issue, It will be interesting to see if he can keep up his solid play.
Neither team could gain a sizable advantage and it went down to the final few minutes with UNCW up 56-55. That's when Rendleman was fouled going up for a shot and another scuffle ensued with Cunningham getting T'd up. Wilmington sank the four free throws and the next trip down Graham hit a three for an eight-point lead that was ultimately enough for the victory.
It was a fun game between the two Tar Heel state schools, and while it was generally sloppy with 43 combined turnovers and plenty of fouls, it was better than the alternative. I won't lie, I did check the Lions score a few times during the game, but I would have just been miserable if I had done my usual routine. As we get into conference season, there will be fewer games on Sundays, but at least for the next few weeks I can enjoy a better Sunday tradition.