LYNCHBURG, Va. - Keith Hornsby scored a career-high 27 points as UNC Asheville bounced back from a slow start to defeat Liberty 83-69 in the Big South Conference opening-game at the Vines Center Saturday night.
Asheville is now 16-1 under head coach Eddie Biedenbach in Big South Conference-opening games and has now won eight straight. The Bulldogs (7-8, 1-0 BSC) won for the sixth time in their last eight contests.
Also scoring in double figures for Asheville was freshman Will Weeks with a career-high 15 points. Jeremy Atkinson just missed a double-double with 12 points and nine rebounds. He tied his career-high in assists with six. D.J. Cunningham finished with 10 points and three blocked shots. Freshman guard Marcus Neely added a career-best seven points.
Liberty (4-11, 0-1 BSC) was led by John Caleb Sanders with 19 points.
"We didn't start out too well and weren't playing with a lot of emotion," stated Biedenbach. "I was pleased with the way we responded and did a great job on offense and defense the rest of the way."
The Bulldogs led 53-51 with 11:05 left before they took charge of the game. Asheville went on a 14-2 run over the next six minutes to roar to a 67-53 lead. Hornsby had nine points in the run as he had two treys and scored on 3-point play.
The Flames would get no closer than 12 the rest of the game.
Hornsby was 10-of-17 from the field, 2-of-5 from beyond the arc and was a perfect 5-of-5 from the free throw line. The sophomore guard has now hit 25 straight free throws.
Liberty led for most of the first half. The Flames went on a 12-4 run as they knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers and led 14-10.
Asheville went ice cold from the field and as the home team led 24-14 with six minutes to go in the half. Trailing 29-20, the Bulldogs' defense picked up as Asheville scored the final eight points of the half to cut the Flames' lead to 29-28 at halftime. Hornsby has 10 points in the opening half.
"We did a nice job picking things up in the final 10 minutes of the first half and got back in the game," added Biedenbach. "I really liked what we got out of our freshmen in Will Weeks, Sam Hughes and Marcus Neely tonight. We're going to need them to keep getting better."
Asheville is now 26-2 in its last 28 games against Big South Conference opponents. The Bulldogs are 16-4 in their last 20 road game against league opponents. Biedenbach raised his record to 27-11 against Liberty.
UNC Asheville will play at Gardner-Webb in a key Big South Conference battle Wednesday night at 7 p.m. The Bulldogs return home Saturday afternoon to host Radford at Kimmel Arena starting at 2 p.m. Tickets are available at www.uncabulldogs.com.
Hornsby has scored in double figures in seven straight games, while Atkinson has scored in double figures in 14 of 15 games.
The Bulldogs had just one turnover in the second half after making 10 in the first half.
Asheville scored a season-high 55 points in the second half.
The Bulldogs are 11-1 in their last 12 road games against Big South Conference teams.
Asheville had six blocked shots in the game and has accumulated 78 for the season. The Bulldogs had just 88 blocks last season.
Asheville improved to 4-4 in games it has trailed at halftime.