ASHEVILLE, N.C. - The UNC Asheville women's basketball team begins a three-game homestand at Kimmel Arena Thursday evening when the Bulldogs play host to Big South Conference rival Winthrop starting at 7 p.m.
Thursday's game will be video-streamed and can be seen under the multimedia tag at www.uncabulldogs.com.
Asheville (2-13, 0-4 BSC) is looking for its first league win on Thursday and also hoping to break a six-game losing streak. The Bulldogs lost at defending BSC champion Liberty on Saturday, 74-49.
The Eagles (7-8, 1-2 BSC) have lost two straight after falling at South Carolina State on Tuesday night, 62-52. Kevin Cook is in his first year as head coach of the Winthrop program. He worked for Marlene Stallings last year at Winthrop and was quickly promoted last spring when Stallings left. The Eagles are led by last year's Big South Player of the Year Dequesha McClanahan. She's Winthrop top scorer with a 17.2 average and also tops the club in assists with a 6.2 mark. Senior guard Diana Choibekova has a 14.5 average and has knocked down 51 3-pointers on the year. The Eagles started Big South Conference play with an impressive 78-61 road win over High Point and also own a 61-59 win over SEC foe Mississippi State earlier this season.
First-year Asheville coach Brenda Mock Kirkpatrick is impressed with what she's seen from the Eagles so far this season.
"Winthrop is a very talented basketball team that played an extremely a tough non-conference schedule to prepare for Big South Conference play," stated Kirkpatrick. "They have one of the best play-making guards in the conference in Dequesha McClanahan and a balanced scoring attack that makes it difficult to focus on just defending her. We are going to have to work on controlling the tempo and limiting their transition points in order to give ourselves an opportunity to win."
Sophomore guard Shonese Jones continues to lead the Bulldogs in scoring with a 15.1 average. She's sixth in the league in scoring this year. Jones has scored in double figures in nine consecutive games and has an 18.2 average in those contests. The Etowah native has a 19.3 scoring average in four league contests.
Asheville's homestand continues next with a pair of games against league foes. The Bulldogs are off this Saturday before hosting league-leader Presbyterian College on Jan. 17 at 7 p.m., followed by a game with Gardner-Webb on Jan. 19 at 2 p.m.
Senior center Kelli Riles became the school's all-time Division leader in rebounds last week as she surpassed Wendy Beecher's 894 career rebounds at Radford. She is now second all-time at UNC Asheville career rebounds. The great Sheila Ford is the school's and college basketball's all-time leader in rebounds with 2,200. Riles has 900 career rebounds and is in seventh place all-time in the Big South in that category. She moved into second place in style at Radford last Thursday with a double-double as she scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Kelli was held to one rebound at Liberty but only because she was ill and didn't play very much in the game against the Flames. Her 9.9 rebounding average leads the Bulldogs and is third in the Big South.
A big emphasis for the Bulldogs this season has been trying to improve their defense. Asheville is definitely showing signs of improvement in that area. The Bulldogs allowed opponents to score 74.8 points per game last year but this season, Asheville is allowing opponents to score 66.9 points per outing. Take away national power North Carolina's 101 points against the Bulldogs earlier this year, the average goes down to 64.5 points per game.
UNC Asheville is trying to break a 15-game losing streak in Big South Conference play. The Bulldogs last league win was a 74-62 victory over Gardner-Webb on Jan. 21.
Asheville is 9-14 all-time at Kimmel Arena.
Winthrop won both meetings last season as the Eagles defeated the Bulldogs, 84-68 in Rock Hill and 79-68 at Kimmel Arena. Grace Blaylock set a single-game school record in the loss at Winthrop with seven made 3-pointers. The Eagles have won five straight games against the Bulldogs in Asheville. Ironically, the Bulldogs have won three of their last five trips to Winthrop.