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HomeSportsBasketballUNC Wilmington eyes tall task at No. 12 Kentucky

UNC Wilmington eyes tall task at No. 12 Kentucky


UNC Wilmington encounters more rough road on Saturday when the Seahawks visit No. 12 Kentucky in Lexington, Ky.

UNC Wilmington won five of six games before letting a seven-point halftime lead slip away in a 74-66 setback to in-state rival East Carolina on Thursday.

“We’ve got to digest this for a while, we have to learn from this,” Seahawks coach Takayo Siddle said. “If we can learn from this, we’ll get better. But we’ve got to move on quick, because we’re going to be playing against an NBA team on Saturday.”

Kentucky (6-1) suffered its only loss of the season to No. 1 Kansas on Nov. 14. The Wildcats have won four in a row and come into Saturday’s game after routing No. 8 Miami 95-73 on Tuesday.

This will be the first game ever between the Coastal Conference program and Southeastern Conference heavyweight.

With Siddle, UNCW at least has a coach who holds a victory over Kentucky — albeit as a player. Siddle was a junior guard on the 2007-08 Gardner-Webb team that shocked Kentucky in Lexington on Nov. 7, 2008.

But Siddle knows exactly what he faces in the modern-day team piloted by coach John Calipari.

The Wildcats are averaging 94.4 points per game. Six players are contributing at least 10 points per game: guards Antonio Reeves (18.9 ppg), Rob Dillingham (15.4), DJ Wagner (13.1), Reed Sheppard (12.3) and Justin Edwards (10.1) as well as forward Tre Mitchell (14.9).

Wagner, who is shooting 40.7 percent from 3-point range, left Tuesday’s game with an ankle injury. His availability for Saturday’s game is to be determined.

But the Wildcats may see the debut of 7-foot freshman Aaron Bradshaw, a former five-star prospect who is returning from a broken foot. The Wildcats haven’t had a player over 6-9 on the floor this season.

Despite the dominance of his team against Miami, Calipari wasn’t fully pleased. His first words in his press conference after the game Tuesday were: “Got outrebounded again. Wow. Pretty good.”

“There’s a game plan, and we kind of got out of it,” Calipari said. “But to be honest with you, the way we run and fly up and down the court … I’m just yelling ‘Go, go!’ But to play that way you have got to run. And it can’t be me telling you to run. Just run.”

UNC Wilmington is led by forward Trazarien White (18.1 ppg, 6.0 rebounds per game) and guards Shykeim Phillips (14.0 ppg, Maleeck Harden-Hayes (12.7 ppg), and KJ Jenkins (9.6 ppg).

The Seahawks are not a good long-range shooting team, averaging just 30.3 percent on 3-pointers before hitting just 3-of-23 (13 percent) from beyond the arc against East Carolina.

“Their physicality and force took us out of it,” Siddle said. “It got loud in here and when adversity hit us, we just didn’t respond the right way. But I’m confident that we’ll knock them down the next time — and in that gym, we’ll need to.”

–Field Level Media

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