WILMINGTON, North Carolina – Buzz meets Buzz on Saturday when third-year UNCW men’s basketball coach Buzz Peterson carries his UNCW Seahawks to Atlanta, Ga., to take on ACC member Georgia Tech and animated mascot “Buzz” in a 7 p.m. tip-off at Hank McCamish Pavilion.
The Seahawks, 4-4, are looking to get over .500 for the first time since winning the season opener back in early November against UNC Asheville. The Yellow Jackets stand 5-2 under second-year head coach Brian Gregory following a 62-54 triumph over state rival Georgia Tuesday night.
The game can be heard locally on Sunny 104.5 FM (1045sunnyfm.com) and viewed on ESPN3.com (http://es.pn/mbb-UNCWvsGT). Live stats are carried on UNCWsports.com and a live twitter feed may be accessed via @uncwmenshoops.
“It’s always a challenge when you play a team from the ACC,” said Peterson, who went 6-3 against the Yellow Jackets during his playing days at UNC Chapel Hill from 1982-85. “Coach Gregory has done an outstanding job with that program and it will be a big test for us. They are a strong defensive ball club, so we will need to be focused offensively and execute our game plan well.”
A rejuvenated defense has helped UNCW climb back to .500 after opening the season at 1-3. The Seahawks allowed opponents 81.7 ppg over the first three games, but have limited foes to 53.6 ppg in the last five outings.
Offensively, senior forward Keith Rendleman continues to build on last year’s First-Team All-CAA effort. He is averaging nearly a double-double with 15.9 ppg and 9.6 rpg and racked up his 25th career tandem in Wednesday’s 62-47 win over NCAA Division II Coker.
“Keith has done everything we’ve asked this season,” said Peterson. “We just need to get some of our other players to elevate their game and the offensive will take off. We’ve had some encouraging signs in recent games and there’s been obvious improvement.”
Redshirt freshman Craig Ponder has been part of the maturation process. The Bluefield, W.Va., product was the CAA’s Rookie-of-the-Week this week after pouring in a career-high 26 points in UNCW’s narrow loss last weekend at Marshall.
Like UNCW, Georgia Tech is relatively young. The Yellow Jackets feature only one senior – talented guard Mfon Udofia – and start freshmen Marcus Georges-Hunt and Robert Carter, Jr. Tech is averaging 61.6 ppg and allowing a stingy 55.4 ppg.
Georges-Hunt, at 12.0 ppg, headlines three players scoring in double figures for Gregory’s club. Kammeon Holsey, a 6-8, 231-pound junior forward, and Udofia, a 6-2, 195-pound guard, are contributing 10.4 ppg.
The Seahawks are 0-3 lifetime against Tech and are making their first appearance in the newly-refurbished Hank McCamish Pavilion. The arena formerly known as Alexander Memorial Coliseum, a.k.a. The Thrillerdome, opened early last month after being closed for one year to make way for a $1.6 million renovation. It seats 8,600.
“We’re looking forward to seeing inside,” said Peterson. “The arena brings back a lot of memories for me personally. I hope we can play well there and head into exams on a positive note.”
The Seahawks started end-of-the-semester exams Friday and continue through next week. Following Saturday’s non-conference clash with the Yellow Jackets, UNCW remains on the road next weekend to play Davidson at Belk Arena in a 7 p.m. tip-off.