By RENALDO DORSETT
Tribune Sports Reporter
TRAVIS Munnings is playing his best basketball when it matters most and continues to lead his ULM Warhawks through the postseason.
The senior forward finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds in the Warhawks’ 89-80 win over Appalachian State Mountaineers Tuesday night in the opening round of the Sun Belt Conference tournament.
A trio of Bahamians are competing in the Sun Belt tournament. Shaquillo Fritz and the Arkansas State Red Wolves were eliminated in the first round, while Radshad Davis and the Texas-Arlington Mavericks had a bye to Saturday’s semi-final round.
Munnings shot 5-8 from beyond the arc and also added four assists and three steals in 40 minutes. It was his fifth double double of the season and 18th of his ULM career.
“Travis Munnings has played his best basketball of the season over the last three weeks,” said ULM head coach Keith Richard.
“Travis has settled into his role on this team, and he’s done a great job on both ends of the floor. He’s shooting the ball with confidence, especially from the three-point line, and he’s done a great job on the backboards.”
Since the calendar flipped to March, Munnings has improved his numbers across the board for the last four games.
For the month, he has averaged 20.8 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. He has recorded double doubles in two games and made at least five three-pointers in three of the four games.
Munnings is shooting 60 per cent from the field and 55 per cent from beyond the arc.
The Warhawks are the No.7 seed in the conference tournament and will advance to face the No. 6-seeded Coastal Carolina Chanticleers 7:30pm tonight at Lakefront Arena in New Orleans.
Coastal Carolina swept the regular-season series against ULM, winning 92-81 in Conway, South Carolina, and 97-91 in Monroe two weeks ago to spoil Senior Day. “I think our guys are looking forward to having another shot at Coastal Carolina,” Richard said.
“Their lineup presents some difficult matchups for us. We don’t have time for major changes with the quick turnaround, but we need to tweak some things to give ourselves a better chance (at winning the game).
The win over Appalachian State brought the Warhawks’ overall record to 17-14 and their home record to 13-2 when they play in Fant-Ewing Colesieum.
It was a dominant performance from the opening tip when ULM took an early 13-2 lead and built a 22-8 advantage midway through the first half. App State went on a late run but trailed 42-36 at the half. Munnings made a three as a part of an 8-3 run to regain a double digit lead, 50-39. App State battled back to take a 58-57 lead. There were six lead changes and two ties over a span of 1:40 in the second half.
“We had a war against Appalachian State and really all three games this season went tooth and nail. It’s very tough for both teams to stop each other. The offense held the upper hand in all three games this season.
“We had a difficult time stopping them, especially Justin Forrest. He got going in the first half. But, they had a hard time stopping us throughout the game. When the game got tight midway through the second half, we made two or three big 3s to get the lead back to double digits, and that really was the separation we needed to close this game out. Both teams had to battle some fatigue late in the game too.”
The Warhawks shot 50 percent (31-of-62) from the floor, including 57 percent (17-of-30) in the second half, and tallied 19 assists on 31 made field goals. ULM also outrebounded App State, 31-26.
Fritz and the Red Wolves suffered a 75-67 loss to the South Alabama Jaguars Tuesday night to bring their season to a close.
Fritz, a junior forward, got the start and finished with six points, five rebounds and four blocked shots in 25 minutes. It followed seven points and nine rebounds last weekend in the regular season finale against Louisiana.
Red Wolves head coach Mike Balado said despite the early exit the team has built the foundation to move forward.
“We had a long talk in the locker room following the game and I told our seniors how much I love them,” Balado said, “The message to the rest of the team was we have to get to work. I used the analogy that we are paving a road. Last year the cement was poured and it was hardened this year by the hard work and culture the three seniors. They all left their initials with finger prints and now we have to walk over that concrete road and build further and further as we go for our ultimate goal of playing in the NCAA Tournament and winning games there.”
Fritz averaged 1.9 points and 2.6 rebounds per game in his first year with the Red Wolves as a JuCo transfer from Paris Junior College.
Following high school at IMG Academy in Florida, committed to Stetson University but eventually would play his freshman season at Miami Dade College before he made the move to Paris JC.
Both Fritz and Munnings played locally for the St. George’s Jaguars.