Wilmington, N.C. – Keith Rendleman scored 19 points and grabbed eight rebounds and was one of four Seahawks to score in double figures as Hofstra fell, 86-80, to UNC Wilmington in a Colonial Athletic Association matchup at Trask Coliseum on Saturday night.
Senior guard Mike Moore scored 22 points for Hofstra. But the Pride lost its third straight in dropping to 6-10 and 0-4 in CAA play. UNCW’s Adam Smith scored 18 points, KK Simons scored 14 and Donte Morales contributed 12 to lift the Seahawks to 7-7 and 3-1.
Senior forward Nathaniel Lester led the team with 23 points and 12 rebounds for his third double-double of the season and second in as many games, though the Pride saw its series winning streak against UNCW snapped at six games. The Seahawks held Hofstra to 18.8 percent (3-of-16 )three-point shooting in winning for the first time in the series since the 2007-08 season when UNCW also won at home.
"I thought we played well in spurts but they always seemed to make the extra pass," Hofstra head coach Mo Cassara said. "Our sense of urgency in the first half was not what it needs to be."
Down 48-43, UNCW effectively ended Hofstra’s comeback with an 11-0 run. Rendleman scored eight straight points at one juncture, including a two-handed dunk on a put-back while drawing a foul for a three-point play. Milson then galvanized the crowd with a far left-wing three-pointer for a 59-43 lead with 13 minutes left, prompting a Hofstra timeout.
Hofstra responded to the timeout, with Dwan McMillan leading the charge by scoring five straight Hofstra points to put the visitors within 61-51. But McMillan and the rest of the Pride struggled to stay away from foul trouble, with the senior guard picking up his fourth foul when Simmons drove to the basket midway through the second half.
Smith then added a long head-on three-pointer from NBA range to make it 67-53 with 7:30 left. Hofstra would never get closer than six points, though it forced three turnovers in the final 1:40 yet couldn’t make it less than a three possession game until the last shot.
"We have to do a better job
defensively throughout the course of the game," Cassara said. "It was our first-half effort that made the difference, but give a lot of credit to Wilmington."
Both teams entered the contest in the CAA’s upper-echelon of free throw-shooting teams with a better than 70 percent conversion rate and seven combined starters shooting 73 percent or better. Both teams lived up to that reputation, finishing above the 66 percent mark. But UNCW shot 52.8 percent from the floor and held Hofstra to 39.4 percent shooting to secure the win.
"They do a good job of challenging baskets," Cassara said. "We didn't make that extra pass and it hurt us."
Junior guard Stevie Mejia logged 17 minutes, marking the most action he’s seen since going down with a hamstring injury in November. Mejia had two assists and hit first three-pointer since Nov. 26 vs. Cleveland State.
Mejia’s return allowed Cassara to split the
point guard responsibilities with McMillan, though the Pride’s offense
couldn’t sustain momentum after cutting the deficit to five points early in the
second half. McMillan finished with 11 points.
Moore cracked the 20-point plateau for the 12th time this season. Freshman forward Moussa Kone set a career high with seven rebounds and tied his career with six points, accomplishing the feat for the third time this season.
Moore scored 15 first half-points, breaking double figures for the 10th consecutive game and for the 15th time in 16 games this season. But the UNCW backcourt of Smith and Morales scored 11 and 10 points, respectively, to help the Seahawks to a 44-37 halftime lead to cap an opening period in which both teams shot better than 55 percent from the floor.
Sophomore forward Stephen Nwaukoni attacked the glass in the first half, leaping for an offensive rebound and put-back to pull the Pride within 31-28. The Seahawks responded with a 7-0 run to surge to a game-high 10-point lead. Nwaukoni finished with eight points and nine rebounds.
Moore picked up his second foul with just more than six minutes left, limiting his time on the court in the opening half. The veteran shooting guard still connected on 5-of-8 shots from the field.
Hofstra will next be in action on Wednesday when the Pride will host Northeastern in a CAA matchup. Game time at the Mack Sports Complex is set for 7 p.m.