For 20 minutes, UNC Wilmington was living the dream.
The No. 13 seed Seahawks were in prime Cinderella position, leading fourth-seeded Duke 43-40 at halftime. UNCW was shooting 51.5 percent from the field and hit 6 of 12 3-point attempts. The Seahawks were decidedly not intimidated by their name-brand opponent.
“We didn’t work hard all season to just give up just because of the name,” Chris Flemmings said. “That’s kind of our team thing. We’re going to fight every game no matter who we’re playing.”
Flemmings, who hails from Cary and is a graduate of Green Hope High, scored 18 points and spent most of his time during the Seahawks’ 93-85 loss defending Duke’s Brandon Ingram – not an easy task. Flemmings tried to force Ingram to go left, and the defensive game plan called for a double team on Ingram once he got in scoring range.
“He’s tough,” UNC Wilmington head coach Kevin Keatts said. “When you cut him off he does a good job of spinning back. He’s long. He can finish. He can shoot the three. He’s a tough match-up. I thought our guys did a good job on him. I thought we did the best job we could do on him.”
The Seahawks have two other Triangle high school products on their roster: Denzel Ingram (Chapel Hill High) and Marcus Bryan (Ravenscroft). Ingram chipped in 17 points and was 5-for-10 from 3-point range, and Bryan played 12 minutes off the bench, pulling down one rebound.
As a whole, the Seahawks were an undersized scrappy bunch that made the Blue Devils work. It took a much better second half from Duke to pull out the win, and even then it wasn’t a done deal until the final minute.
“I’ve said this all along, the difference between a high major player and a guy who’s at the mid-major level, he may be a couple inches taller, he may be just a little bit faster, but these guys, I mean, you’ve got to understand,” Keatts said. “If you ever came to one of our practices, we practice so hard every day. They really believe in – you’re talking about a team that’s a championship team. Obviously we won the regular season, then we went into Baltimore and won a tournament championship against a very good Hofstra team. So when they entered the game, I didn’t have to say much because they believed we were going to win the game.”