RICHMOND -- For a team that is 10-20, the University of North Carolina Wilmington looked awfully impressive in the opening Colonial Athletic Association tournament game.
UNCW earned Saturday’s noon CAA quarterfinal against Drexel at the Richmond Coliseum following Friday’s 70-59 victory over James Madison.
Granted, James Madison finished its season 12-20, but UNCW impressed Drexel coach Bruiser Flint, especially with its inside game.
And that was with its top player Keith Rendleman, not having a monster game. The 6-foot-9 junior had 14 points and six rebounds, but also had four personal fouls.
He is a first-team all-CAA performer and somebody Drexel will have to do contain.
What was surprising was 6-8 freshman Cedrick Williams, who had a career high 22 points against JMU after failing to scorer in a regular season 79-57 loss to Drexel
“Rendleman is one of the best players in the league so we know we will be up for a tough challenge,” Flint said after watching the Seahawks opening win. “It’s playoff time so guys are playing and playing hard.”
And in UNCW’s case, playing well, at least for one game.
This is a team that had entered the tournament on a six-game losing streak. The Seahawks had dropped 10 of their previous 11.
Of course, one of those losses was a 63-59 home defeat to highly regarded VCU on Feb. 22. In that game Rendleman had 24 points and 10 rebounds.
So Flint wasn’t just talking coach-speak when he raved about Rendleman and the Seahawks’ inside game.
If Williams, who had just his fourth double-figure scoring game of the season, can duplicate Friday’s performance, Drexel will have to do more than break a sweat to win.
Then again, UNCW will have to deal with Drexel’s strong backcourt. Frantz Massenat was a first-team all-CAA choice for Drexel and he is relentless on both ends of the floor.
All week the Drexel players have said they don’t feel any extra pressure in being the top seed, but the fact remains that the Dragons likely won’t earn an NCAA at-large berth unless they reach the CAA final and even that won’t assure anything.
Drexel has the mindset that it has to win the CAA to go to the Big Dance. And the Dragons vow not to overlook anybody, especially a 10-20 team that opened the CAA tourney playing much better than its record indicates.