Wilmington, N.C. -- In a community that takes its basketball seriously, UNC Wilmington is raising expectations. As the city faces potential new development, the Seahawks are personifying the identity of the fans who are supporting their recent success.
It was the 64th meeting between in-state rivals UNC Wilmington and East Carolina, and Trask Coliseum was filled with enough electricity to light up the state. As the host for the 29th time, this time on a renovated court, shaded in white from inside the three-point line minus the paint, and sporting their almost year-old new logo, the Seahawks had another classic battle with ECU, winning 81-71.
Many students have left campus for the holidays, but the buzz around Wilmington for the hot Seahawks hasn't been missed from the community. In the 50th sellout of Trask Coliseum and the first of the season, UNC Wilmington provided the fans with a sound performance.
The up-tempo, lineup changing, unselfish, and high-scoring Seahawks are giving the city of Wilmington another dimension of growth as is reflective of the port city.
According to the census bureau, the population has grown by roughly 9,000 people in the past five years. It is also projected that the city will grow by 54,000 people over the next 20 years.
The growth of the UNC Wilmington (11-1) team continues to be on display each time it hits the hardwood.
"When I took this job, I didn't want to have a good team or a couple good teams,” head coach Kevin Keatts said. “I wanted to have a program."
Ingram’s 26 points, along with 25 points from C.J. Bryce, led the Soarin' Seahawks in the victory over the Pirates. As a unit, they were able to dictate the style of play, forcing East Carolina to go small in an attempt to match the four-guard lineup.
The win was the eighth in a row for the Seahawks, who are now 11-1 and have won more non-conference games than any team in the history of the Colonial Athletic Association.
UNC Wilmington’s leading scorer Chris Flemmings was relatively quiet on the offensive end Tuesday night, and he needed to be. Devontae Cacok was plagued by foul trouble all evening, yet the versatility and depth of the Seahawks allowed the team to still be effective. As the Pirates made a push, Ingram stole the show with 10 points during a six-minute span, including his own 7-0 run to put the game out of reach with 4:05 to play.
"I feel very comfortable,” Ingram said. “I'm pretty much playing my role, we need a bucket or we need a play I feel like I can do that for someone else or myself and just really trying to create and get things going".
Their uptempo philosophy comes at teams in waves with different forms as if you were testing the rip currents down at Wrightsville Beach.
Their defensive pressure hit East Carolina hard in the first half, causing nine turnovers and holding the Pirates to just 24 percent shooting. They play 94 feet of man-to-man, they run and jump, they delay traps; their style is as diverse as the community around them.
"We have a really good team,” Bryce said. ”Anybody on any night can be our leading scorer. That's the thing that makes us really good this year.”
Keatts agreed, and added that the Seahawks’ versatility is exactly what he envisioned developing within his program.
"My vision is, when I took over the program that we could score from every position,” he said. “People understood their roles, we were a pressing and running team, and we are getting there.”