The Broncos led by 10 in the first half and 45-38 at halftime, but the Seahawks’ pressure in the second half helped UNCW pull out the four-point win in front of a home crowd of 4,019.
Following timeouts from both benches, Avery fouled UNCW’s Devontae Cacock with 18 ticks left on the clock. Cacock made the first of two free throws and Haymond rebounded for WMU on the miss. Down two, Wilder drove the lane with a chance at the game-tying bucket with two seconds remaining. His heavily contested floater in the middle of the lane came off the back iron and the Seahawks' Jordan Talley jumped on the rebound. Talley was immediately fouled and drained a pair of free throws to seal the UNCW win.
“It was a tough loss to take. We knew coming in it was going to be a tough game,” said WMU head coach Steve Hawkins. “We are talking about a team (UNCW) that is used to winning and used to winning in their building.
“We controlled the first half and we were doing what we wanted to do. The story of the game was we lost gap control in the second half. Their guards really started to penetrate and get inside our defense. When our big guys had to come over to help out UNCW was there to tip in missed shots because we weren’t close to our rebounding assignments.
“Thomas saw a good gap he was able to drive into at the end of the game and he had a look. He made a lot of those plays in the first half. They did a good job defending him on the final shot.”
Wilder was able to get to the basket most of the evening, scoring five of WMU’s first seven points and finishing impressive drives in the second half. The Broncos’ sophomore point guard finished with 12 points, a career-high nine rebounds and five assists.
Haymond led Western Michigan with 19 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Avery was the third Bronco to score in double figures with 14 points, while also collecting five rebounds.
Western Michigan opened the game with a 9-2 lead before the Seahawks started knocking down shots from distance. UNCW scored 15 of its first 17 points off of three’s. The game was tied 23-23 with 9:13 left in the first half and WMU went on a 14-5 run to build a 37-28 advantage. A layup by Wilder gave WMU a 10-point advantage in the final 30 seconds of the first half and UNCW’s Denzel Ingram hit a three at the buzzer to make the score 45-38 at the half.
UNCW pulled ahead, 58-57, with 11:27 left in the game off a turnover that led to a fast break dunk. The Seahawks were able to maintain the lead moving forward. Western Michigan turned the ball over just four times in the first half, but UNCW stepped up its press and forced WMU into 14 second half turnovers.
The Broncos shot 50.9 percent from the floor, however were just 20-for-31 (64.5%) from the free throw line. UNCW shot 38.8 percent from the field with 10 three-pointers and connected on 18 of 25 (72.0%) of its free throw attempts. The Seahawks improved their record to 3-0 with the win.
Western Michigan (1-2) travels back to Michigan on Sunday, then turns around to host Rochester College on Monday, a 7 p.m. tip-off from University Arena. The Broncos are back on the road Nov. 26-29, playing three games in Nashville at the Challenge in the Music City and travel to James Madison on Dec. 3.
(Courtesy of WMU Athletics)