Men’s Basketball Overthrows Dukes 76–60

By Milton Posner

Northeastern hasn’t always clicked this year. Three starters have missed significant time. The offense can stagnate. They’ve often struggled against CAA cellar-dwellers.

But when they click, they put on one of the best shows in mid-major Division I basketball. Their versatile pieces click into a smooth, balanced offense. Their perimeter defense hounds opposing guards and steers them into the waiting jaws of Anthony Green. They steamroll less talented teams.

The Huskies clicked Thursday night, besting James Madison, 76–60, and reasserting themselves after a tough loss to Charleston last Saturday. Save for an eight-minute mid-game JMU run, the Huskies overpowered, overmatched and outhustled the Dukes.

Northeastern has dealt with faltering health over the past week-and-a-half. Multiple players have dealt with illnesses, with head coach Bill Coen half-jokingly referring to his available players as “semi-healthy” after the game.

Eight Huskies saw the floor Thursday night. All of them converted a field goal. Six hit multiple shots and logged at least seven points. Vasa Pusica led the way with 19 points (7–13 FG), four rebounds and seven assists, while Anthony Green powered his way to 17 points (7–8 FG), and 11 rebounds.

Northeastern’s lead rose to 18 by the midpoint of the first half, largely due to a relentless stream of inside shots. Dwight Wilson, JMU’s 260-pound center, left the game with two fouls after two minutes. He wouldn’t return until the second half, and the Huskies, particularly Green and Pusica, took advantage in the meantime.

JMU cut the margin to seven by halftime and to one by the first timeout of the second half. Coen switched tactics.

“We went to a little bigger lineup because I thought they were hurting us on the backboard. They got some second-chance points,” Coen observed. “We went to both Anthony and Tomas [Murphy] up front and then came with Bo [Brace] at the three. That’s as big as we get. That settled us down on the defensive end.”

The Husky offense was a sight to behold for much of the second half. Green and Murphy — the tallest and slowest players on the floor — displayed adept ballhandling and passing. The Huskies made five of 10 three-pointers after halftime, keyed by frequent off-ball movement and Anthony Green’s pindown screens. They overcame what Coen described as JMU’s “really good size and length on the perimeter” by forcing switches, attacking the basket on the catch and not allowing the defense to set up.

The Huskies played without Shawn Occeus, who missed his sixth consecutive game with a leg injury, and Jeremy Miller, who injured his ankle against UNCW last Thursday. Coen didn’t give a timetable for Occeus’ return but said that he conditioned again today and that the workout went well.

“He’s getting close,” Coen said. “But we want to be extra careful with him and make sure he’s good to go when he’s in there, that he’s fully confident and trusts his body.”

The win gave second-place Northeastern (11–4) a 1.5 game lead over Charleston, which fell to William & Mary, 86–84, behind a combined 57 points from Nathan Knight and Matt Milon. Northeastern remains two games behind first-place Hofstra, which toppled Towson in double overtime, 91–82. CAA Player of the Year Justin Wright-Foreman led the way with 28 points and, along with Eli Pemberton, played all 50 minutes.

If Northeastern wins two of their three remaining games, they will lock up the second seed. They will go for the first of those wins Saturday at 12:30 PM ET, when they face Towson. Matt MacCormack and Justin Littman will have the call beginning at 12:15.

Huskies end Hofstra’s 16-game winning streak

by Justin Littman

BOSTON, Ma. — With the hottest team in the nation coming to Matthews Arena, Northeastern (13-9, 7-3 CAA) was able to take care of business, snapping Hofstra’s (19-4, 9-1 CAA) 16 game winning streak by a final of 75-61. The Huskies, shorthanded without Shawn Occeus, were able to contain the Pride’s offense and get revenge on a loss from last month. Back in January, Justin Wright-Foreman knocked down a game-winning three just in front of half court as the buzzer sounded.

This game was back and forth early, with 10 lead changes in the first twelve minutes. A tightly officiated half resulted in both leading scorers Vasa Pusica (16.0 ppg) and Wright-Foreman (26.0 ppg) picking up two fouls early on. Hofstra coach Joe Mihalich opted to keep Wright-Foreman on the bench with the foul trouble, while Pusica continued to see time on the court. Pusica’s role was pivotal, and he helped the Huskies build an eight point lead going into the half. Pusica scored 16 of his 24 points in the first half.

“He’s an experienced player…if you let a player like that sit and marinate on the bench sometimes they don’t get it going again so you want to make sure they stay in touch with the game”, remarked head coach Bill Coen after the game.

The Pride shot just 32% from the field in the first half, and struggled to get anything going in the second. Hofstra did not make a three for the first 18 minutes of the second half, and frustration mounted as Northeastern extended the lead to double digits. Technical fouls by guard Eli Pemberton and Mihalich helped Northeastern get additional points at the free throw line, and the Huskies lead swelled to as much as 21 points.

Northeastern did an admirable job defensively, and much of the effort was led by Donnell Gresham. Gresham drew the primary matchup with Wright-Foreman, and contained him throughout the night. Northeastern limited second chance points and transition opportunities, and Hofstra finished with zero fast break points.

Gresham also had a big game on the offensive end, scoring 18 points and knocking down 4 three pointers. Bolden Brace scored 11 points and added 10 rebounds, and Jordan Roland, who was held scoreless through the first 33 minutes, finished with 10 points.

For Hofstra, Wright-Foreman was unable to find a rhythm, finishing the game with 15 points (5-14 FG). Second leading scorer Eli Pemberton also struggled, and finished the game with just 9 points. Senior guard Desure Buie did his best to keep Hofstra in the game, but his 22 points were not enough with the struggles of his teammates.

Northeastern has now won 6 of their last 7, and they gain a game on Hofstra in the CAA standings. The Huskies trail the Pride in the CAA standings by two games. Next week, Northeastern will play two more at Matthews Arena, hosting William & Mary on Thursday and Elon on Saturday.

Injury-riddled men’s basketball looks to stay afloat

Northeastern point guard Vasa Pusica. (Photo courtesy Northeastern University)
Northeastern point guard Vasa Pusica will miss the next four to six weeks with injury. (Photo courtesy Northeastern University)

by Milton Posner

Northeastern men’s basketball is having a thoroughly weird season.

After dropping the season opener to beatable Boston University, they dismissed Harvard behind Jordan Roland’s hyper-efficient 35 points. It was Roland’s second game as a Husky.

They blew Alabama off the floor, 68-52, in the first game of the Charleston Classic, then lost their next three games by a combined 49 points.

On Wednesday night, the Huskies (3-4) dismantled Bucknell 96-78, besting their season scoring average by 27 points and their previous season best by 15. Sophomore forward Jason Strong–who didn’t even record a point last season –, contributed 15 points (7-9 FG) and five rebounds in his second consecutive start.

But Northeastern wasn’t done surprising. A slew of injuries to key contributors has given Head Coach Bill Coen’s rotation an extreme makeover — and shed some doubt on the Huskies’ status as the clear-cut favorite in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA). Now it’s up to other players — both proven and unproven — to carry the load until some key cogs return.

Before Wednesday’s game, star redshirt-senior point guard Vasa Pusica was ruled out for four to six weeks after a slight left wrist fracture suffered in a first-half fall against Alabama, per Steve Hewitt of the Boston Herald. He played the next two games but clearly wasn’t himself, posting just 10 points (3-16 FG) and eight turnovers in 50 minutes.

Back in Boston, X-rays revealed the fracture, a serious blow to the CAA Championship favorites who returned most of last year’s expectations-exceeding, major-injury-free squad. Pusica started all 33 games, averaging 17.9 points, 3.6 rebounds and 5.1 assists while logging a 50/43/80 slash line and earning CAA Player of the Year runner-up honors.

Pusica isn’t the only returning starter sidelined. Versatile junior guard/forward Max Boursiquot is out indefinitely with a hip injury and hasn’t seen the court this year. Neither has junior guard Shawn Occeus (ankle sprain), though Coen expects Occeus to return within two weeks, possibly Dec. 4 at Syracuse. Occeus was the CAA Defensive Player of the Year and averaged just under 11 points per game last year — second best on the team

In the meantime, expect redshirt junior guards Donnell Gresham Jr. and Jordan Roland, junior swingman Bolden Brace and sophomore forward Tomas Murphy to pick up the slack. Coen also cited the injuries as an opportunity for younger, less-experienced players to play against elite competition.

The injuries, combined with Northeastern’s difficult non-conference schedule — including seven games against last year’s NCAA Tournament teams — could result in a losing record heading into CAA play. Given that the Pusica-Occeus one-two punch won’t play together until mid-December or later, the team’s roster consistency from last year to this year will certainly prove useful. They won’t have to build chemistry from scratch.

Last month, Northeastern was easily named the odds-on CAA Championship favorite. Three injuries and a whole lot of weird later, the season is more in doubt than anyone expected.

Roland Goes For 35, Northeastern defeats Harvard 81-71

By: Justin Littman

After falling to Boston University on Tuesday, the Huskies faced another difficult cross-town rival on Friday. Northeastern was ready for the challenge, and took down the Crimson 81-71. The Huskies struggled early, falling behind 21-11 after with 7:06 to go in the first half. From there, the Northeastern offense caught fire. The Huskies went on a 14-0 in the span of two minutes, knocking down three after three. This run started a stretch where Northeastern shot 10/11 from behind the arc. They ended up shooting 56 percent from downtown in the game.

The Huskies were led by the stellar play of guard Jordan Roland. In only his second game with the program, the junior transfer from George Washington went off for 35 points, and made seven three pointers. Roland, who came off the bench for the Huskies in this one, provided the team with a huge spark. While Roland may have surprised some observers, his stellar play came as no surprise to Coach Bill Coen.

“We’ve seen Jordan shoot all preseason and last year. He can really shoot the ball and he got it going tonight.”

Northeastern needed the offense, as Justin Bassey held Vasa Pusica in check throughout the game. After scoring 31 in the opener, Pusica was held to just 10 points on 2-10 shooting. Contrasted with the first game, tonight was a total team effort from the Huskies. Donnell Gresham had 13 points and hit a big three to put the Huskies up eight with 1:16 to go. Bolden Brace, Anthony Green, and Tomas Murphy each contributed six points as well.

“That’s what the team game is all about…I thought Vasa did a good job of letting the game come to him and directly our club and giving others confidence”, Coen remarked after the game.

Next up for the Huskies is a trip down to Charleston for the Charleston Classic. They will square off against Alabama in the first round, in the first of three games in the event. That game will tip on Thursday, November 15th at 2 PM.

 

CAA Preview: Towson Tigers

Image result for towson tigersBy: Justin Littman

Head Coach: Pat Skerry (8th season)

Last Season: 18-14 (8-10, 5th in CAA); lost to William & Mary in CAA Quarterfinals

Losses:

  • G Zane Martin (20 ppg; transferred to New Mexico)
  • F Justin Gorham (transferred to Houston)
  • F Mike Morsell
  • F Eddie Keith
  • G Brian Starr
  • G Deshaun Morman
  • G Jordan McNeil
  • G Travis Ingram
  • G Van Rolle
  • Jeffrey Prophete

Newcomers:

  • G Allen Betrand
  • G Chris Caliguiran
  • G Jakigh Dottin
  • G Quinton Drayton
  • G Brian Fobbs (transfer from Genesee Community College)
  • F Juwan Gray (transfer from San Diego)
  • G Tobias Howard (transfer from Chipola College)
  • F Nakye Sanders (transfer from Duquesne)
  • F Yagizhan Selcuk
  • G Nicholas Timberlake
  • F Solomon Uyaelunmo

If you take a look at the Towson Tigers this season and wonder whether the CAA added a new team this year, you are not alone. After an offseason filled with graduations and unexpected transfers, head coach Pat Skerry faces a challenge that few other tenured coaches have ever had to bear. Unprecedented roster turnover has left Towson with just two returning players from last year, Dennis Tunstall and Alex Thomas, who accounted for just 7 percent of the team’s scoring output last season (each averaged 2.7 ppg).

While Towson lost 5 players to graduation, it was the loss of two blossoming stars, Zane Martin and Justin Gorham, that truly provided the knockout blow. Martin, one of the leading scorers in the CAA as a sophomore last season, initially declared for the draft before withdrawing and transferring to New Mexico. Gorham, another sophomore, had seven double-doubles in conference play, and seemingly improved in every game he played. For a program that seemed like they were on the cusp of building something great, the loss of these two was a devastating blow.

While the outlook may seem bleak, keep in mind that Pat Skerry has dealt with a trickier situation before. When Skerry took the program eight seasons ago, the Tigers had won just four games in the previous year. Sure, it wasn’t all sunshine and blue skies at first, as the Tigers won just one game in his inaugural season. But Skerry’s positive demeanor persisted, and the Tigers quickly climbed the CAA ranks to finish second in the league in each of the next two years. Since that first season, the Tigers have finished in the bottom half of the league just once.

Skerry has a lot of new faces to balance, 11 to be exact, and it’s anybody’s guess to see exactly how this rotation plays out. Nakye Sanders, a transfer from Duquesne, and Juwan Gray, from San Diego, are the only two newcomers with Division I experience. The Tigers bring on seven new freshmen, who will have plenty to play for as Towson looks for the players to usher in a new era. The other two are Junior College transfers, a  path we have seen most recently with Kevin Keatts at UNCW, though that success was likely the exception to the rule.

So what’s the moral of this story? Just because the names are new and unfamiliar does not necessarily mean it’s all bad for Towson. A clean slate means they have an opportunity to redefine their identity. While size and strength was good enough to fend off mid-major foes in the CAA, this program never really had much of a chance against major programs with bodies just as big. With the game of basketball trending more towards a pace and space style, perhaps Towson will head in a similar direction.

Bottom Line: There’s no denying the fact that this program has been totally depleted. Coach Skerry will do his best to build this program up once more, but in the short term there are far more questions than answers. This should lead to a competitive practice environment, and the young players may very well be better off in the long-run. While this team lacks talent, they most certainly will not lack heart. Don’t expect the Tigers to finish in the top half of the CAA, but teams will have to be ready to go when they face this team.

 

CAA Preview: Drexel Dragons

Image result for drexel dragons

By: Matthew Neiser

Head Coach: Zach Spiker (3rd season)

Last Season: 13-20 (6-12, 7th in CAA); lost to Charleston in CAA Quarterfinals

Losses:

  • G Tramaine Isabell (21 ppg; transferred to Saint Louis)
  • F Miles Overton
  • F Austin Williams
  • G Kris Alford
  • G Sammy Mojica
  • F Tyshawn Miles

Newcomers:

  • G Trevor John (Transferred from Cal Poly)
  • F Zach Walton (Transferred from Edmonds Community College)
  • G Matey Juric (Lake Forest Academy)
  • G Coletrane Washington (Quaker Valley High School)
  • G Camren Wynter (DME Academy)
  • F Tim Perry Jr. (redshirted last year)
  • F James Butler (sat out last year due to transfer rules)

Coming off a season where they finished in a four-way tie for seventh in the CAA, the Drexel Dragons are going to be an interesting team to follow this upcoming season. While the team has dwelled at the bottom of the CAA for the last few years, improvement has been the name of the game for Dragons.

Having increased the team’s win total in both seasons since arriving and bolstered by the signing of a multi-year extension this summer, head coach Zach Spiker will look to continue the trend in 18-19. However, improvement this season will be quite the task.

Losing important players is never easy for any team. Losing your top scorer and assist-maker as a sub-.500 team in a mid-major conference? That’s about as difficult as it can get. The Dragons find themselves with this exact dilemma coming into the 2018-2019 season, as CAA All-Conference Second Team guard Tramaine Isabell (21 pts, 7.5 reb, 3.4 ast) graduated this past summer and transferred to Saint Louis. To add to the Dragons’ troubles, they also graduated guard Sammy Mojica (third leading scorer) and CAA All-Defensive Team forward Austin Williams (first in rebounds).

Luckily for the Dragons, they will still return three 10+ ppg scorers from last season, led by Junior guard Kurk Lee. Lee led the team in minutes last season at just under 36 per game, and is poised to be the team’s main playmaker in the absence of Isabell.

Drexel will look to replace much of the lost production with returning players, but that certainly won’t be the only source. Incoming transfer forward Zach Walton has impressed in Drexel’s recent preseason tour in Australia, highlighted by a 22-point game in his debut for the team. New guards Trevor John and Camren Wynter also contributed a little under ten points apiece during the tour.

Shooting has been a major issue for the Dragons, who finished dead last in 3PT% last season. If they want to drag themselves up from the bottom of the league, improving their accuracy from deep is going to be absolutely key. The addition of John is bound to help, as he shot a whopping 45% from beyond the arc last season for Cal Poly.

One bright spot for the Dragons this season will be their depth. Though they lost major contributors, the rest of the team has stayed mainly intact. Add onto that the transfers of John and Walton, as well as the addition of forwards Tim Perry Jr. and James Butler, who both sat out last season, and the Dragons will be a team with lots of  experience throughout the squad.

Bottom Line: Losing Isabell, Williams, and Mojica leave Drexel with an abundance of question marks. The Dragons will have to develop leadership and shooting quickly to find success this season. Expectations aren’t high for the Dragons, but new additions and improvement from some familiar faces might help them surprise some people.

CAA Preview: Elon Phoenix

Image result for elon phoenix

By: Rachel Santo

Head Coach: Matt Matheny (9th season)

Last Season: 14-18 (6-12, 7th in CAA)

Losses:

  • F Brian Dawkins (12.2 ppg)
  • G Dmitri Thompson (12.3 ppg)
  • G/F Collin Luther (0.4 ppg)
  • F Jack Anton (1.2 ppg, )
  • F Jack George (1.3 ppg)

Newcomers:

The beginning of last season was full of hope for the Elon Phoenix, with all five starters returning and a projected third place finish in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA). Ultimately, though, they could not live up to the hype, tying for last place in the regular season with a 6-12 conference record, and losing in the first round of the conference tournament.

This season, they’ll be missing two of their star players in F Brian Dawkins and G Dmitri Thompson. Dawkins had won Preseason All-CAA Second Team honors, and finished the season with 12.2 PPG and 5.4 RPG. Thompson, ranked 28th on Elon’s all-time scoring list, tallied 12.3 PPG and 5.3 RPG. The Phoenix also graduated Collin Luther, Jack Anton, and Jack George, who combined for 2.9 ppg.

With Dawkins and Thompson moving on to professional ball, it looks like Normal, Illinois native Tyler Seibring will have to have a better-than-normal season. After leading the team in points and rebounds per game (15.4 ppg and 6.8 rpg), all eyes are on the 6-foot-9 senior forward to lead the team to a winning season. His junior campaign brought him numerous honors, including being named to the All-CAA Second Team for the second consecutive year.

Two more returning starters are senior guards Dainan Swoope (12.0 ppg, 3.1 rpg) and Steven Santa Ana (9.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg). Swoope has already carved his name in program history, ranking 35th in all-time scoring, 8th in three-pointers made, and is currently tied for 11th in career assists. Assuming he feels an added motivation to move up in the leader boards, you can expect Swoope to step up his offense.

Santa Ana also has history to make – he’s only 87 points away from the 1,000 point mark. He also had the third-highest 3-point percentage last season at 36.1%, improving from 32.7% in 2016-2017. If he can continue to increase this percentage, he’ll be on track to get those last 87 points quickly, and help lead his team to some wins.

The Phoenix are welcoming three freshmen to the squad this year, and with their not-so-experienced bench, there’s a shot these newcomers will get some decent playing time. Six-foot-six forward Chuck Hannah is “a prototypical Elon guy” according to Coach Matheny, and at 230 pounds, it seems like he’ll be able to hold his own against veteran CAA players. Summerfield, NC native Andy Pack, who has attended Elon’s summer camps throughout his early career, and Coach Matheny has deemed him a good fit as well. Kris Wooten, a 6-foot-3 guard, led his hometown high school to a state championship his freshman year before transferring to Arendell Parrott Academy.

Bottom Line: The good news is, there’s nowhere to go but up for the Elon Phoenix. If Seibring continues to take charge on offense and improves his defense, he has the ability to lead his team to a better record. And with veterans Swoope and Santa Ana continuing to improve, there is no doubt the Phoenix will be more competitive than last season. While you can’t expect this team to make a serious run at the conference title, they will get out of that last place position and move up to the middle of the pack.

 

 

 

CAA Preview: Delaware Blue Hens

Image result for delaware blue hens

By: Milton Posner

Head Coach: Martin Inglesby (3rd season, 27-39)

Last Season: 14-19 (6-12, tied for 7th in CAA); lost to Northeastern in CAA quarterfinals

Projected Finish: 7th

Losses

  • Ryan Daly (transferred)
  • Anthony Mosley (graduated)
  • Skye Johnson (graduated)

Newcomers

  • Nate Darling (transferred from University of Alabama at Birmingham)
  • Ryan Johnson (transferred from Mercer University)
  • Justyn Mutts (transferred from High Point University)
  • Ithiel Horton (freshman)
  • Davis Long (freshman)
  • Aleks Novakovich (freshman)
  • Matt Veretto (freshman)

Last year’s Delaware men’s basketball team was a painful reminder how quickly a squad’s fortunes can change. In mid-January the Blue Hens were 11-8 (4-2 in CAA play) before multiple injuries to top players keyed a 2-10 stretch that effectively sunk their season. Delaware stumbled into the CAA tournament as the 7th seed and was eliminated by Northeastern in a resounding 74-50 second-round loss.

In late March, now-junior guard Ryan Daly announced his intention to transfer. Two weeks later, he chose St. Joseph’s University in his hometown of Philadelphia, where his father and grandfather both played and his grandfather coached. Daly earned CAA Rookie of the Year honors in 2016-17 and was named to the All-CAA Third Team in his freshman and sophomore seasons. In last year’s campaign, he led the Blue Hens with 37.5 mpg and 17.5 ppg and was second in rebounds per game (6.2). Per NCAA transfer rules, Daly will redshirt during the 2018-19 season.

Delaware lost redshirt sophomore and St. Bonaventure transfer Derrick Woods in December. Woods was suspended indefinitely from the team for unspecified violations of team rules. His suspension came following an incident in practice in which teammate Jacob Cushing suffered a broken nose.

With Daly gone, Delaware will likely rely heavily on sophomore guards Ryan Allen and Kevin Anderson. Allen is coming off a terrific freshman season, averaging 15.3 ppg and shooting 38.9 percent from downtown en route to becoming Delaware’s second consecutive CAA Rookie of the Year winner. Anderson was logging 13.7 ppg and 4.9 rpg before knee surgery ended his season after 11 games. His injury was arguably the single most important factor in turning the tide on Delaware’s 2017-18 season, and they’ll need him healthy and productive if they are to improve on last year’s mark.

The departure of graduating guard Anthony Mosley (10.3 ppg and 4.3 rpg) deprives the Blue Hens of a consistently productive starter. Similarly productive big man Eric Carter (11.0 ppg and 9.1 rpg) might well have an increased role in the Hens’ attack in his final college season.

The standouts from Delaware’s newcomers are 6’5 guard Nate Darling and 6’7 forward Matt Veretto. Darling, a junior transfer from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, averaged 10.1 ppg last year while shooting 40.9% from three, 47.7% from the field and 83% from the line. Veretto was first team all-state last year at East Catholic High School in Connecticut, posting 19 ppg and 11 rpg.

Bottom Line: Even if Delaware’s key players stay healthy and productive throughout the season, and even if newcomers Darling and Veretto make solid contributions, it’s doubtful they’ll make much noise in the CAA. Ryan Daly’s exit deprives the Blue Hens of their best player and none of their newcomers come close to filling the hole. It’s difficult to imagine them improving on last year’s 7th-place finish in the conference standings or their second-round exit in the CAA Tournament.

CAA Preview: James Madison Dukes

 

Image result for james madison dukes

By: Mack Krell

Head Coach: Louis Rowe

Last Season: 10-22 (6-12 CAA); Lost to Drexel in first round of CAA Tournament

Notable Players Lost:

G Joey Mclean

F Cameron Smith

F Ramone Snowden

Newcomers:

G Matthew Urbach

G Jonathan Hicklin

G Deshon Parker

F Devon Flowers

The James Madison Dukes basketball season ended in the same fashion as many of their games during the 2017-18 season. Despite leading 55-54 with 4 minutes to play in the first round of the CAA Tournament, the Dukes lost to Drexel by a score of 70-62. In his third season as the head coach for James Madison, Louis Rowe will look to improve on a last place finish in the CAA.

The Dukes will be saying goodbye to three seniors from the 2017-18 season. Guard Joey Mclean will be the biggest loss of the three for the Dukes. Despite battling injuries much of his senior season, he was a larger part of what the Dukes did offensively. During his junior year he scored in double digits in 17 games and lead the team in assists. In addition to Mclean, the Dukes will also be losing role players Cameron Smith and Romane Snowden.

Despite graduating three seniors, the Dukes will be returning their four leading scorers from last season. The leader of that group is rising senior Stuckey Mosley. Last season, his first with the Dukes, he averaged 18.5 points per game and was awarded third team CAA honors. Mosley will be the leader on the court for the Dukes this season and the go to player late in games.

Mosley will most likely be joined in the backcourt by guards Matt Lewis and Darius Bank, both incoming sophomores. As a freshman last year, Banks was named to the CAA all rookie team and acted as a lockdown defender for the Dukes; he led the team with 48 steals on the year. Lewis was also named to the CAA all rookie team and was second on the team with 72 assists tallied. The Dukes will rely on both these young players to help Mosley in the scording column.

One of the major reason the Dukes struggled last season was from the inability to consistently make shots. They finished the 2017-18 season in last place in overall field goal percentage with just a 42 percent rate. The team finished in 8th place in the CAA in three point field goal percentage at a rate of 33.2 percent. Much of the shooting struggles this past season can be attributed to a combination of poor shot selection and rushed shots, issues often seen with young players. The Dukes can expect this part of their game to improve next season with many of their young key players having a year of experience behind them.

However, in order to be successful in that improvement, they will need the incoming freshmen to play well. One of those freshmen that could see playing time as the season progresses is 6-8 forward Devon Flowers. From Hyattsville, Maryland, Flowers was named to the VISAA All-State team as a senior and led his team in points, rebounds, and blocks. The Dukes will look for him to have an impact on both ends of the court his freshman season.

Bottom Line: Despite a disappointing 10-22 season last year, the Dukes will enter this season with confidence and the belief they can improve both in the CAA and overall. They graduated just three seniors and return all four of their leading scorers. Last season they started two freshman guards, each of whom will come into this season more experienced and poised to perform. As a guard heavy team that likes to run, the Dukes will hope these sophomore guards can provide some help to the Dukes team and scoring leader, Stuckey Mosley. If this happens, and forward Develle Phillips holds down the fort in the frontcourt, the Dukes can cause some trouble for teams in the CAA and improve on their last place finish from last season.

CAA Preview: UNCW Seahawks

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By: Michael Petillo

Coach: C.B. McGrath (2nd season)

Last Season: 11-21 (7-11), 6th place CAA

Newcomers:

  • G Ty Gadsden (Charlotte, N.C./Believe Prep/Vincennes)
  • F Shawn O’Connell (Roswell, GA./Milton/Georgia Southern)
  • G Kai Toews (Tokyo, Japan/Northfield Mount Hermon Mass.)
  • G Jaylen Sims (Charlotte N.C./United Faith Christian)

Departures:

  • G Jordon Talley (16.9 ppg)
  • F Marcus Bryan (5.7 ppg)
  • G Nick Powell

Any discussion of this year’s UNCW team has to begin with Devontae Cacok.  The senior forward is coming a monster season which saw him named to the all-CAA first team as well as the CAA all-defensive team for the second straight year.  After playing a supporting role on offense two seasons ago, Cacok assumed much more of the scoring load as a junior.  He tallied 17.8 ppg and once again was a nightmare on the glass, racking up 13.6 rpg.  Cacok also flashed signs of a real post-up game and began to emerge as a threat away from the rim.  He showed an improved face-up game, knocking down mid-range jumpers and driving past bigger, slower defenders.  On top of that, the 6’7 big continued to be a force on defense and earned his team easy baskets on second chance points and lobs.

Outside of Cacok, however, the Seahawks have major questions.  Jordon Talley was the team’s best backcourt player and his departure leaves a large hole at the point guard position.  The good news for head coach C.B. McGrath is that he has a number of experienced backcourt players who will look to take steps forward.  Ty Taylor and Jaylen Fornes are the most established of the group.  Both players are upperclassmen who started for the majority of last year alongside Talley, each averaging double figures.

The Seahawks also have experienced bench players such as Jay Estime’, Jacque Brown, and Jeff Gary who will compete for backcourt minutes.  All three were consistent role players for Coach McGrath last season.

A couple of big man transfers will look to earn minutes as the starter next to Cacok.  Redshirt junior Jeantal Cylla sat out last after transferring to UNCW from FAU, where he averaged 8.5 ppg and 3.4 rpg over two years.  Shawn O’Connell comes to the Seahawks as a graduate transfer from Georgia Southern.  They will combine with senior big Trey Kalina to try and replace Marcus Bryan’s 6.9 rpg.

Keep an eye on the two freshman guards, Jaylen Sims and Kai Toews.  Sims is a long, explosive leaper with a good looking jumper.  Toews has a smooth handle and is a solid distributor.  It may be tough for either player to get minutes in such a deep backcourt, but both guys are worth monitoring if they can get on the floor.

 Bottom Line:  UNCW has a deep backcourt and an experienced roster.  That combined with an elite player in Devontae Cacok seems like it should be enough to make waves in the CAA, but without Talley they don’t have the scoring to hang with the conference’s best teams.  Look for a similar season to 2017-18 with the Seahawks finishing as a middle of the pack group.