ASHEVILLE, N.C. – UNC Asheville looks for its second straight win and second victory in the Palmetto State when the Bulldogs travel to Atlantic Sun power USC Upstate Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m.
Sunday’s game will be broadcast locally on WPEK Radio (880-AM) with the pre-game show starting at 2:30 p.m. The game will be video-streamed on ESPN3.
Asheville played well in its home opener Thursday night when the Bulldogs downed Bluefield College, 92-56 at Kimmel Arena. Nick McDevitt’s club placed five players in double figures and shot a season-high .585 (38-of-65) from the field in the victory. Asheville enjoyed a huge height advantage and it showed with a 51-21 rebounding advantage as it outscored the Rams, 62-21 in the paint.
But the Bulldogs face a stiff challenge Sunday at the Hodge Center. USC Upstate is 5-4 on the season with a win at Virginia Tech to start the year. The Spartans are led by senior forward Torrey Craig, the Atlantic Sun’s leading scorer at 18.0 points per game.
“We played very well Thursday night and got a great effort from everyone,” stated McDevitt. “It was good to play a home game and get a win.
“Our guys face a big challenge Sunday at USC Upstate,” added McDevitt. “Torrey Craig is as good a player as we will see this season. We’re going to need to play very well to have a shot at winning. Hopefully, the tough schedule we had in the first part of the year will help us on Sunday.”
Asheville leads the series 7-6 that dates back to the 1970’s when USC Upstate was USC Spartanburg. The teams just began playing again three years ago and what a game it was when the Spartans dedicated the Hodge Center with a 93-91 double overtime win on Nov. 30, 2010. The Bulldogs had a turnover and gave up a late trey to tie the game and then got a three-pointer at the end of the first overtime to send the game into a second overtime period. Asheville had a chance to tie or win the game but missed two shots in the final seconds. The Bulldogs stole one from USC Upstate two years ago at Kimmel Arena by rallying for an incredible 88-81 win. Asheville scored the final 16 points in the final four minutes to win. The Spartans got revenge last season at Kimmel with a dramatic win. Asheville led for 39 minutes but fell in the final seconds, 73-71.
“We’ve had some great games with these guys the past few years,” explained McDevitt. “Eddie Payne (USC Upstate head coach) is an excellent coach and does a great job with his players.”
The Bulldogs continue to be led in scoring by freshman guard Andrew Rowsey with a 14.7 average. He’s knocked down a team-leading 24 three-pointers. Senior forward Jaron Lane is averaging 12.6 points per game and has scored in double figures in five consecutive games.
UNC Asheville played its first eight games away from home before playing Bluefield at Kimmel Arena Thursday night. After Sunday’s game at USC Upstate, the Bulldogs play their next four games at home. Asheville’s next road game won’t be until Jan. 8 when the Bulldogs open Big South Conference play at Gardner-Webb.
Asheville is 1-0 in the Palmetto State this year a 67-58 overtime win at College of Charleston on Nov. 15.
The Bulldogs have started an all-freshman backcourt the past three games in rookies Andrew Rowsey and David Robertson.
Senior forward Jaron Lane is approaching 1,000 career points. He has 883 points entering today’s game.
Red-shirt senior center D.J. Cunningham returned from an injury that caused him to miss the last three games prior to Thursday night. He scored a team-high 16 points in the Bluefield win as he went 8-of-9 from the field. In Thursday’s game, he collected his 600th career rebound and now has 603 rebounds, good for 10th place on the school’s all-time career list. In addition, D.J. has 196 career blocked shots and is second all-time in that category at Asheville. He was a bright spot in the double overtime loss three years ago at USC Upstate when he collected a career-high 18 rebounds.
Asheville is averaging just 11 turnovers in the past three games.
The Bulldogs had a season-high 28 assists on Thursday. It’s the most assist by an Asheville team since a school-record 38 assists vs. Mars Hill in the 2011-12 season.
Asheville had five players score in double figures Thursday night for the second time this year.
Sam Hughes collected a career-high 11 rebounds vs. Bluefield.