Huskies upset No. 6 UNC-Wilmington

By Jason Kornwitz

The Huskies’ season ended last Thursday in Fairfax, Va., with a 55-45 loss in its conference quarterfinal game against No. 3 seed Delaware in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) tournament.

But the day before, the No. 11 Huskies (8-21, 3-15 CAA) pulled off a stunning 63-54 upset of the sixth-seeded UNC Wilmington (15-13, 9-9 CAA) 63-54, temporarily lifting the spirits of a squad that’s struggled in its inaugural season in the CAA.

After the first round win, NU coach Willette White praised her team for its hard-fought victory.

“I am so proud of our kids and our leadership and the fact that they just went out and took care of business,” White said. “It was more they just got down and got dirty.”

Sophomore guard Shaleyse Smallwood, freshman guard Ashlee Feldman and senior guard Maralene Zwarich combined for 52 points on 17-36 shooting; the remainder of the team hit 3-11 from the field.

“It was the most balanced attack that we’ve had maybe during all conference play,” White said. “I know that when we have three kids that can score then we’re a really good basketball team. But we haven’t been on the same page until [Wednesday].”

Earlier in the season the Seahawks handed the Huskies a 65-51 loss in Wilmington, N.C. Deadlocked at halftime, the Seahawks pulled away in the second due in large part to its 49-29 edge on the boards and NU’s inconsistency from the field; the Huskies missed 15 shots in a row to open the second.

But this time around, NU shot nearly 48 percent during the second half, limited the Seahawks to 19-66 shooting and rebounded more effectively than last time, tallying 38 boards to the Seahawks’ 44.

“We have mixed up our defenses a lot more the second half of the season,” White said. “We knew who UNC Wilmington’s shooters were and when they were not on the floor we wanted to give them a bit of a zone look, which made them a little bit uncomfortable. I believe UNCW expected us to play a lot more man and we just wanted to mix it up and throw them off a little bit.”

Delaware (22-6, 13-5 CAA), however, posed more of a challenge for NU. On two previous occasions this season, NU lost to the Fightin’ Blue Hens by 22 points.

On Thursday, trailing 23-19 at the half, the Huskies got no closer than three in the second when Feldman, NU’s high scorer with 17, knocked down a three to make it 27-24. Delaware’s subsequent 8-0 run proved too much for the Huskies to handle.

NU shot less than 23 percent from the field and turned the ball over 22 times, leading to 16 points for the Hens.

Smallwood and Zwarich, vital to the win the afternoon before, shot a collective 3-25 from the field, totaled just six points, going to the free throw line just twice and turned the ball over five times.

“We had wide open looks that we didn’t knock down,” White said. “We outrebounded them and we did a better job at the free throw line. If you shoot better, you survive. Defensively, [Delaware] may have caused us to rush shots a little bit.”

Still, Feldman, selected to the CAA All-Rookie team, figures to play an integral role in the future of Husky basketball.

“[Feldman’s] been huge for us,” White said, adding that as Feldman gains experience, her game will blossom. “[Feldman] needs to be able to get her shot off quicker and needs to work on some pull up dribbles. All these are things that after freshman year, you get to understand.”

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