Off to its best start since it joined the Division I ranks in 1991, No. 22 Charleston visits UNC-Wilmington on Wednesday night near the coast of North Carolina.
Charleston (16-1, 4-0 CAA) moved up one spot in the AP Top 25 Poll after a road win over North Carolina A&T and a home victory over Delaware. It’s the highest Charleston has been ranked since reaching No. 16 in 1999.
And when the Cougars first appeared in the rankings last week, it was the first time any CAA team had been ranked since January 1987, when a David Robinson-led Navy squad rose to No. 18.
Against NC A&T, the Cougars pushed the pace, attempting a season-high 77 shots en route to a 92-79 victory. At home versus Delaware, the Cougars had a total team effort, as four players scored in double digits and the bench racked up 29 points.
“We know we are going to get everyone’s best shot and if we are not on our game, we can lose,” Charleston coach Pat Kelsey said. “Most gyms we go into now, it’s going to be circled on the marketing calendar. We are ranked and if we’re not at our best and someone knocks you off, it’s going to be a court storm for that team.”
While Charleston owns the nation’s longest winning streak at 15 games, UNC-Wilmington is right behind with 13 consecutive victories.
The Seahawks (14-3, 4-0 CAA) haven’t lost since Nov. 18 when the played a ranked UConn team on the row. In the plethora of wins since, UNCW has beaten the likes of Vermont, North Texas and East Carolina. Most recently, UNCW beat NC A&T 66-61 on the road Saturday behind a career-high 25 points from senior guard Maleeck Harden-Hayes. UNCW outscored NC A&T 38-10 in the paint.
“We have a group of special, special players. We have great support around us in the community,” UNCW coach Takayo Siddle said. “Our culture is as strong as anybody’s right now. Those 13 wins are all culture.”
Trazarien White leads UNCW in scoring this season with 14.1 points per game. Harden-Hayes, a transfer from North Dakota State, puts up 9.1 points and 4.1 rebounds.
Charleston, meanwhile, has five players averaging in double-digits. Dalton Bolon is the leader with 12.9 points per game. Ante Brzovic averages 10.2 points, 4.9 boards.
The Cougars and Seahawks have split their last 10 matchups, but UNCW has won four straight. The campuses are separated by about 175 miles.
–Field Level Media