Game #9-310: Old Dominion Monarchs at North Carolina-Wilmington SeahawksJanuary 16, 2013 7:00 pm
For some, it may be hard to find a reason to go see Old Dominion against UNC-Wilmington. Both schools are ineligible for the Colonial Athletic Association tournament with UNCW banned for APR reasons and ODU not allowed because of their impending move to Conference USA. Even if both teams were eligible, they were still struggling this year.
While the Seahawks' struggles were to be expected, it was Old Dominion's demise that has surprised a lot of people. A few weeks ago, I had noticed that ODU was ranked dead last at one point in The State rankings on BBState. Quite the turn of events for the Monarchs who had been seen as a solid mid-major program the past decade.
While UNCW may be a bad team on the road that has yet to find a win, it has shown some promise at home where they were coming off a win over George Mason. Keith Rendleman has been the consistent star for the Seahawks, but getting consistency from his teammates has been a problem. Either Chris Dixon, Craig Ponder, or Tanner Milson has stepped up with big games on occasion, but counting on each one from game to game has yet to happen.
Not exactly a glowing preview for the game, I know, but I could not pass up the chance to go to Wilmington on Wednesday since other options were much further away. When I had seen ODU against Charleston, I did not think they played that badly, despite the loss. While their record was horrible, they still had a win against Virginia. I wanted a second chance seeing ODU play to see if there was any hope for them on the rest of the season.
UNCW has not had a stellar record in recent years, but I am glad to see that the students have not abandoned them. They have always had a good turnout when school was in session and this night would be no different. The student section was packed as many of them had to resort to sitting in the upper level. I heard some people attribute the high turnout due to free t-shirts being handed out, but this was not the first time I had seen a solid showing from the students.
I had seen the Seahawks use the home court energy to come out with a quick start before and this was true on this night as well as UNCW made its first three shots. The spurt would be short lived since ODU would go on an 11-2 run after some defensive lapses from the Seahawks. Wilmington battled back and tied it back up at 17 and I was noticing a different Seahawk team.
Three-point shooting has never been a specialty for UNCW in the games I had seen in the past two seasons. They were often hesitant to take the long-range shot, but here they were against the Monarchs bombing away and finding some success. One reason that probably led to this offensive strategy was Rendleman having to sit early with two quick fouls.
With Rendleman out, this led to second-chance opportunities for the Monarchs that they otherwise would have not had. Richard Ross and DeShawn Painter were the beneficiaries of this as the tandem led ODU in the first half. With their star player not on the floor, UNCW used a team effort to stay with ODU. The lead was traded a few times and there were several ties in what was turning into a great game. Old Dominion did manage to gain the lead at the half 31-28, but everyone knew this one would be going down to the wire.
Painter and Keenan Palmore were able to hit the first two shots for ODU coming out of the half, increasing the lead to seven. Turnovers were starting to plague the Seahawks, but they prevented the lead from growing with some stout interior defense. Rendleman was back on the floor and cleaning up the glass while Cedrick Williams was swatting numerous shots.
Neither team could make a shot, but UNCW was getting to the line and scored nine straight, all from the free-throw line. That was capped by a Rendleman dunk to end the field goal drought, but was quickly answered by a Dimitri Batten three. The second half played out much like the first, as there were several ties in a very close game. The huge difference for the Seahawks was Rendleman, who was the entire offense for UNCW. There was a stretch of close to 14 minutes where no other UNCW player other than Rendleman made a field goal.
ODU had a lot more balance, but was having troubles with Williams down low who had six blocks in the half. They were still very much in the game down three at the last media timeout. UNCW got a quick boost from another player other than Rendleman when Chris Dixon scored back-to-back layups. Old Dominion came back with two makes of their own and the deficit was back to three with 1:00 to go.