ASHEVILLE, N.C. - Diamond Hunnicutt scored 16 points as Western Carolina outlasted UNC Asheville 58-45 in the season-opener at Kimmel Arena Saturday afternoon in the Asheville Collegiate Invitational.
Charleston Southern edged UNC Greensboro, 60-57 in the first game of the double-header on Saturday.
The Bulldogs were led by sophomore guard Shonese Jones with a game-high 19 points. Freshman Paige Love contributed seven points and five rebounds in the loss.
Asheville led 28-26 at halftime but went ice cold from the field in the second half. The Bulldogs shot just .240 (6-of-25) from the field in the second stanza. WCU outscored the home team, 32-17.
The loss spoiled the head-coaching debut of Brenda Mock Kirkpatrick who is in her first year at UNC Asheville.
"Our kids played hard today, and I was proud of our effort, " stated Kirkpatrick. "We had some defensive miscues with help rotation and allowed them to score easy baskets in the first half. This is a team that prides itself on good half-court defense so that was a disappointment. Our offensive execution is getting better each day, and I was proud of the shot opportunities we had within the offense, unfortunately, they didn't fall for us tonight."
The Bulldogs fought back from an early six-point deficit to take a two-point lead at halftime. Trailing 12-6 at the 11:30 mark of the first half, Asheville rallied to take a 19-18 lead when Love knocked a jumper in the lane with 6:25 remaining. Jones had eight points in the 13-6 run.
The teams were tied at 26-26 late in the half when Asheville got a blocked shot from Gentry Manley that led to a fast-break lay-up by Tracey Trammel to put the Bulldogs in front 28-26.
Tied at 34-34 early in the second half, WCU went on a 7-0 run led by five points from Hunnicutt to take the lead for good at 41-34. Asheville went close to six minutes without scoring during the WCU run as the Bulldogs missed seven straight shots and had two turnovers.
The visitors eventually built the lead to 52-41 on two free throws from Janae' McKinney with 3:51 left. Asheville got four quick points as Jones hit two free throws and a jumper from Manley cut the lead to 52-45 at the 3:11 mark.
But the Bulldogs could not score again as WCU scored the final six points of the game to seal the victory.
Asheville held a 34-32 rebounding advantage. Kelli Riles collected seven rebounds for Asheville, while Manley grabbed six.
UNC Asheville will be at home again this Thursday evening when the Bulldogs host Wofford at Kimmel Arena starting at 7 p.m.