Kevin Keatts' UNC Wilmington Seahawks gave Duke all they could handle in the opening game of the NCAA Tournament's first round. The Seahawks made the Blue Devils uncomfortable right off the bat and were able to put together a 43-40 first half lead, largely in part to Division II transfer and walk-on Chris Flemmings.
The long-armed lefty guard was able to cut to the basket with ease and finish at the low post througout the first half and ended the game with 18 points and 2 rebounds. Flemmings also helped the Seahawks defensively in the first half as UNCW stayed on top of everything and contested every shot the Blue Devils had. Keatts' fullcourt pressure held the Blue Devils to just a 3-for-10 performance from downtown in the first half.
The second half was a different a story though as it was Duke that started to be the bullies in terms of defensive pressure and started the second half with a 14-3 run that put the Blue Devils up 12 with just about 14 minutes left in the second half. The Seahawks were able to get back within five with just under five points left but a monster performance from Marshall Plumlee quelled UNCW's momentum.
We thought Plumlee would be a huge factor before the game and it turned out to be so as he posted 23 points and 8 rebounds. Grayson Allen turned up his performance on the glass as well and also finished with 23 points and 10 boards. Freshman phenom Brandon Ingram had 20 points and 9 rebounds for the Blue Devils as Duke outrebounded UNCW 40-34.
The other prime factor for the Seahawks in the second half was foul trouble. UNCW was in the double bonus nearly ten minutes into the second half. C.J. Gettys, Craig Ponder, and Devontae Cacok all fouled out and three other Seahawks finished with four personal fouls. Ponder ended up leading the Seahawks with 22 points.
Duke moves on to a Saturday tip in Providence where they will play the winner of the Yale-Baylor game.
For UNC Wilmington, their season ends with a CAA Championship and a 25-8 mark, their most wins since poting the same mark under Brad Brownell in 2006. The Seahawks season also ended in the first round that year when they lost to George Washington 88-85 in overtime. Ponder and Dylan Sherwood are the only contributors UNCW is expected to lose this offseason.