East Carolina looks for 4-0 start in matchup with UNC Wilmington

NCAA Basketball

It could be setting up as a special season for East Carolina if the early going is any indication.

Now it’s a matter of repeating things when the Pirates take on visiting UNC Wilmington Monday night in Greenville, N.C.

“I’ve never been 3-0 here so I’m ecstatic,” East Carolina forward Jayden Gardner said. “I just want to keep going. Get used to this feeling, keep winning.”

The Pirates have a 3-0 record for the first time since the 2013-14 season after Saturday’s 63-50 home victory against Radford.

East Carolina coach Joe Dooley is putting emphasis on tightening up defensively.

“The team we’re going to see on Monday (does) a very good job of trying to get downhill with the basketball,” he said.

Gardner poured in 20 points in the Radford game. He has led East Carolina in scoring in all three games, averaging 21.7 points per outing.

UNCW-East Carolina competitions constitute regional rivalries in several sports as they share fan bases in eastern North Carolina.

UNCW (2-1) has been idle since a 73-50 rout of Troy on Nov. 28.

“What I learned is that we got better with each game,” first-year Seahawks coach Takayo Siddle said. “I told the guys that the season is long, but can you get better. I thought we took steps forward. We still have a long ways to go, but I like where we’re going right now.”

UNCW guard Jaylen Sims was the first Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Week after averaging 26.7 points per game in the first three outings.

“I thought he was completely locked in all three games and did a great job leading our team,” Siddle said. “Offensively, he was red hot, but made great strides defensively as well. I’m very proud of Jaylen. Now the challenge for him will be can he continue to make his teammates better?”

Sims provided the Seahawks sparks in several ways.

“Jaylen has earned the right to play well,” Siddle said. “He did it within our offense and staying within himself. He can play five positions. His versatility is what makes him special.”

Jake Boggs was in the UNCW starting lineup, but only played two minutes before going to the bench with an injury in the most recent game. His status might not be revealed until the East Carolina game.

This will be the fourth consecutive game away from home for the Seahawks, who are slated for only one home game prior to Dec. 23.

Monday’s game is the middle game for East Carolina in a stretch of three games in six days. If all the games are played, it will mark a four-game homestand prior to the Pirates playing an American Athletic Conference opener at Southern Methodist on Dec. 16.

–Field Level Media

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