AHEVILLE, N.C. – The UNC Asheville men’s basketball travels to mountain rival Western Carolina Monday night for a date with the Catamounts and the Ramsey Center starting at 7 p.m.
Monday’s game will be broadcast on WWNC Radio (570-AM) with the pre-game show starting at 6:30 p.m. The game can also be heard via audio-streaming at the link in this story.
Asheville looks for its first win in the Nick McDevitt era after losing at top-ranked Kentucky 89-57 Friday night at Rupp Arena. The Catamounts opened the season with a 77-55 victory over Wittenberg Monday night at home.
The teams played last year in the first game of the season with the Bulldogs holding off the Catamounts at Kimmel Arena, 71-61.
McDevitt saw some positives against Kentucky on Friday night. The Bulldogs trailed 41-31 at halftime and led three different times in the opening half. Will Weeks led Asheville with 19 points, including 15 in the first half against the Wildcats’ towering front line.
“I thought we did a nice job, particularly in the first half of, I wouldn’t say controlling the pace, but playing the pace that we wanted to,” stated McDevitt. “I thought we did a nice job for about 24 minutes. I think there were about 16 or 17 minutes left in the game we were down seven and I thought we looked a little tired. They (Kentucky) had some real easy possessions midway through the second half where we just didn’t have anybody near the rim.”
McDevitt is impressed with the Catamounts.
“Western Carolina has a very good team this year. Larry Hunter (WCU’s head coach) is an excellent coach and will have them ready to play,” declared McDevitt. “Western Carolina has four senior starters back and this is going to be a challenging game for us Monday night at the Ramsey Center.”
The game with WCU is the second of eight straight away from home to begin the season for the Blue & White. Later this week, Asheville plays at College of Charleston Friday night and then heads to Duke next week for the first round of the Preseason NIT. The Bulldogs play the Blue Devils on Nov. 18 and then East Carolina or Norfolk State on Nov. 19 at Duke.
Some other bright spots in the game against Kentucky were 12 points from freshman Andrew Rowsey and a near double-double for center D.J. Cunningham. He scored eight points and collected 10 rebounds. Cunningham also blocked two shots.
Asheville is looking for its first win at the Ramsey Center since the 2007-08 season when a veteran Bulldog team downed the Cats, 83-73. WCU has won five of the last seven meetings between the teams in Cullowhee. Two years ago, Asheville’s championship team traveled to Cullowhee and got beaten, 86-67. It was the Bulldogs worst loss of the year.
Western Carolina leads the all-times series 24-20. In the Division I era, the teams have played 28 teams with each winning 14 games each. Asheville is 5-9 all-time at the Ramsey Center and dropped its last two games in Cullowhee.
Will Weeks scored in double figures for the 13th time in his career at Kentucky with his 19 points. He had a game-high 15 points in the first half against the Wildcats.
Andrew Rowsey started in the backcourt Friday at Kentucky He’s the first freshman guard to start the first game of the season since J.P. Primm started against Belmont Abbey in the 2008-09 season.
D.J. Cunningham was credited with two blocked shots at Kentucky and now has 182 career blocks. He is in third place on the school’s all-time career list and needs nine to move past C.J. Walker (190) into second place. Cunningham just missed a double-double with eight points and 10 rebounds. He collected double-figures in rebounds for the 18th time in his career.
UNC Asheville Director of Athletics Janet R. Cone was once the women’s basketball coach at Western Carolina. She coached the Catamount program from 1990-93 and went 4-2 vs. the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs go into Monday’s game minus some players in the backcourt. Senior guard Trent Meyer will miss about a month of the year with an ankle injury. Meyer started last year and was the leading returning scorer with a 9.7 average and he connected on a team-leading 64 three-pointers. Sophomore guard Marcus Neely will red-shirt this season with a knee injury. Neely was a defensive stopper a year ago as a freshman and started three times. Both will be missed.
One thing the Bulldogs will have this year is height. Asheville is the tallest team in the Big South and one of the taller teams in the country. The Bulldogs list five players 6-9 or above on this year’s roster. It starts with 6-9 forwards Mike Bedulskis, Giacomo Zilli, continues with 6-9 center/forward Chudier Pal, 6-11 center D.J. Cunningham and 7-0 center Jaleel Roberts. All five figure to be in Asheville’s rotation throughout the season.
UNC Asheville enters the first part of the seasn without its top three scorers from last season. Forward Jeremy Atkinson led the Dogs with a 17.8 average before graduating. Guard Keith Hornsby averaged 15 points per game and was second in the nation in free throw percentage at .925 before transferring to LSU this summer. Senior guard Trent Meyer averaged 9.7 points per game and led the team in three-pointers made with 64 but will be out for a few weeks with an ankle injury. Only 23.2 points from last year’s club will be on the floor when the Bulldogs tip off against Western Carolina Monday night.