ASHEVILLE, N.C. - The UNC Asheville Bulldogs play their final home game of the season Wednesday when they entertain Presbyterian College in a key Big South Conference battle starting at 7 p.m.
Wednesday's game will be broadcast by WWNC Radio (570-AM) with the pre-game show beginning at 6:30 p.m. The game will also be video-streamed and can be seen for a small fee at www.uncabulldogs.com under the multimedia tag.
The Bulldogs (15-14, 9-5) hope to end a frustrating four-game losing streak on Wednesday night. Asheville has lost those four games by a total of 13 points with the last two losses being on last-second shots by its opponents. Last Saturday, the Dogs lost to Jacksonville State in the BracketBuster series, 71-69 on a tap-in at the buzzer. The loss spoiled a 29-point performance from senior forward Jeremy Atkinson and a career-high 19 points from Corey Littlejohn.
"We're not playing poorly, but we're not doing enough to win close games," stated Bulldog coach Eddie Biedenbach. "When you play close games, you need to be at your best in all phases of the game. You can't take a play or two off because that could be the difference in the game.
"Jacksonville State is a very good team, and we did a lot of good things in the game on Saturday," added Biedenbach. "I really liked we fought back in the final four minutes when we were down nine. However, if we could have made a few plays earlier in the game, we wouldn't have been down nine with four minutes to go."
Asheville faces a Presbyterian College (8-21, 4-10 BSC) team that gave the Bulldogs fits earlier this year in Clinton. The Dogs won the game, 77-74 on Jan. 30 but had to withstand the Blue Hose shooting .622 (28-of-45) from the field. Jeremy Aktinson led Asheville with 22 points, while D.J. Cunningham added 18 points and 10 rebounds.
"We had a tough game with Presbyterian earlier this season," admitted Biedenbach. "I didn't think our defense played that poorly. They just hit some tough shots throughout the game. However, we found a way to win a close game on the road and hopefully that will help us tomorrow night."
Wednesday's game is also important for the league standings. Asheville is currently tied with Gardner-Webb for second place in the Big South Conference's South Division with a 9-5 league record. Charleston Southern is in first place at 11-3. The Bulldogs want to finish in second place to avoid having to play a first-round game in next week's Big South Conference Tournament at Coastal Carolina. If Asheville finishes third or below, the Dogs would have to play on Tuesday against a North Division opponent. If the Bulldogs finish second, they'd have a first-round bye and would open play in the quarterfinals on Thursday. GWU owns the tie-breaker with Asheville by its sweep of the Bulldogs. The Runnin' Bulldogs host CSU tonight. The Dogs need a win tonight and Saturday at Winthrop and a Gardner-Webb loss either tonight or Saturday to push Asheville into second place.
Asheville leads the series with Presbyterian College since the Blue Hose joined the Big South, 7-1 as the Bulldogs have won the last six meetings. This is PC's first visit to Asheville in two years. The Bulldogs have won all four meetings in Asheville, including an 88-55 decision two years ago. Five of the Bulldogs wins in the series have come by 10 points or less with one in overtime.
Jeremy Atkinson leads Asheville in scoring with a 17.0 scoring average. He also tops the club in rebounding with a 7.0 mark. Sophomore guard Keith Hornsby could play on Wednesday. He's missed the last two games with a shoulder injury. Hornsby is averaging 15.2 points per game and is second nationally in free throw percentage at .938 (91-of-97).
UNC Asheville is 9-4 at Kimmel Arena this season but has lost its last three home games. The Bulldogs have not lost three consecutive home games since dropping three straight early in the 2009-10 season. Asheville has not lost four straight home games since the 1993-94 team lost five consecutive games en route to a 3-24 season.
Senior forward Jeremy Atkinson is trying to do something that hasn't been done very often in the history of Bulldog basketball. He's trying to score 1,000 career points in just two seasons after transferring to UNC Asheville from Louisburg Junior College. Only two Bulldogs have done that and none in the Division I era. Jeremy has 917 career points entering tonight's game and has a chance to get to 1,000 career points if Asheville can make a run in next week's Big South Tournament. If he can get there, he'll join Mickey Gibson (1,179) and Guy Batsel (1,076) as players who earned 1,000 career points in just two seasons.
Asheville has won at least 15 games in six consecutive seasons, tied for the second-longest streak in Big South history. It is also their 15th 15-win season since the Conference was formed, which ranks as the second-most in league history.
Asheville needs one more Big South victory for its sixth consecutive 10-win Conference season.
The Bulldogs' current streak is already the second-longest in League annals, as the record is nine by Winthrop from 1999-08. Once Asheville wins its 10th Big South game of the year, it would be its ninth season with at least 10 Conference victories and the second-most in the record books. Winthrop holds that record as well with 10 overall 10-win Big South seasons.
Jeremy Atkinson has scored in double figures in 36 of his last 37 games dating back to last season.
Asheville has lost four games by just two points this season. In the Bulldogs' 14 losses this year, 12 of those defeats have come by eight points or less.
Junior center D.J. Cunningham is eighth all-time in Big South history with 168 career blocked shots. He is also 59th in Big South history with 545 career rebounds, and is just one of 18 players in league history with 500 rebounds and 100 blocked shots. Meanwhile, Cunningham has recorded 70 of his career-high 81 blocked shots this season in his last 22 games, an average of 3.18 in that span. His 168 blocks have moved him into third place all-time at UNC Asheville.
Keith Hornsby has scored in double figures in 18 of the last 19 games he's played.
The Bulldogs' last-second loss on Saturday to Jacksonville State marked just the second this season that they've lost when out-rebounding their opponent. Asheville won the rebounding battle, 35-28. The Dogs are now 13-2 when they out-rebound their opponents.
After scoring just five points in the first 27 games of the year, sophomore guard Corey Littlejohn has scored 34 in the last two contests.