UNCW basketball cruises past ECU: How the Seahawks have reloaded with depth, desire

Trazarien White leads UNCW in points and rebounds this season.

Wanna test your true fandom of the UNCW basketball team?

Before each Seahawks game this season, take a guess on who will be the team’s top two scorers. Or its two leaders in minutes played.

Pro tip: Don’t place any sort of bet – financial, or otherwise – on this endeavor. Make your picks, and enjoy the ride.

Because not even the Seahawks know who it’s gonna be by the end of the evening. Good news for a team that’s playing at least 10 guys for key minutes. Bad news for everyone else trying to figure them out.

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Tuesday night’s 74-61 win over East Carolina was another defensive gem from the Seahawks until the late stages, a python-esque choking of the Pirates’ high-octane perimeter game that sent a sellout Trask Coliseum crowd of 5,221 home as witnesses to coach Takayo Siddle’s vision come to life.

Now on a six-game win streak, UNCW (7-3) has depth for days, a group of players with unique talents that – again – has an uncanny ability to meld together in the biggest moments.

Trazarien White might be the ring leader, but Siddle is finding that he can truly match up with anything thrown at the Seahawks, and not miss a beat.

“After you win a little bit, the confidence starts building up,” Siddle said. “They become a little bit more coachable, and they understand that what we’re giving ‘em is the right thing. And if they just go out and execute with intensity and force, they give themselves a chance to win. They deserve all the credit.”

White had a double-double at the half and finished with 18 points and 14 rebounds, but foul trouble and ineffectiveness left Siddle relying on 10th-man Nolan Hodge on the wing and Nick Farrar as the post player late in the first half. Naturally, Farrar had four points and Hodge a pair of two-hand stuff blocks as UNCW turned a rock fight into a 12-point lead at the break.

“Our strength is our depth, and it has to continue to be that way,” Siddle said. “I told them that in the locker room: Keep working on your character, keep thinking about UNCW first.”

The second half was a continuation of UNCW’s new plug-and-play rotation. White and Donovan Newby coolly brought the ball up the floor with Shykeim Phillips and Jamarii Thomas both on the bench, and UNCW expanded its lead.

Ahead of the season, Siddle said this was the roster he wanted to assemble: Players that could replace each other at virtually any spot on the floor, ball handlers galore, switching every screen defensively and not getting abused in the post or blown by on the perimeter.

“We have that next-man-up mentality: When you get out there, do what we do in practice,” said Maleeck Harden-Hayes, who was UNCW’s second-leading scorer with 12 points and five rebounds in 24 minutes. “Everyone trusts each other on the floor, offensively, defensively. That’s why we have such a deep team, anyone can go off any night. I think that’s why we’re so successful lately.”

The Seahawks are far from a finished product. The offense can bog down at times. They can come out of the blocks more slowly than they should.

Siddle isn’t afraid to use the quick hook for a silly mistake or bang a timeout to emphasize that there’s not enough enthusiasm or focus. He knows there’s another player ready to take those minutes, rebound and defend to stay on the floor until he’s exhausted – like White did after hurdling the UNCW bench in pursuit of a loose ball in the second half.

The effort led Siddle to exhort the student section into another roar as White returned to the court. The Seahawks pulled away from there, opening a three-game homestand emphatically before students go home for the holidays.

“We all have each others’ backs and can be each others’ own hype man,” White said. “I feel like everyone’s confidence is skyrocketing.”

This article originally appeared on Wilmington StarNews: UNCW basketball win streak at 6 after beating East Carolina