ASHEVILLE, N.C. – The UNC Asheville men’s basketball team is home on Saturday when they host defending Big South Conference champion Liberty at Kimmel Arena starting at 2 p.m. Saturday’s game will be televised locally by WMYA-TV (Channel 40).
The game can also be seen on the Big South Digital network for free under the multimedia tag at uncabulldogs.com.
Asheville (12-11, 6-3 BSC) will attempt to win its third straight league game for the third time this season. The Bulldogs have twice won two league games in a row before falling in the next games. Liberty will provide a stern best to the Dogs on Saturday.
The Flames (9-15, 3-6 BSC) have dropped three straight contests, but Asheville head coach Nick McDevitt has a healthy amount of respect for Liberty.
“Liberty is one of the best rebounding teams in the country, and they have more size than we do,” commented McDevitt. “They’ve been a play or two away from winning some of those games. Liberty is well-coached and has the majority of its team back that won last year’s championships.
“Liberty has won at VMI and nearly won at Coastal Carolina last week,” added McDevitt. “We’re going to have to be ready to play hard for 40 minutes against a talented club. They know how to win on the road.”
The Flames struggled during the regular-season last year but put it together in last year’s Big South Championship. They knocked off Coastal Carolina on its home floor in the first round, upset North Division champ High Point in the quarterfinals and then rolled past Gardner-Webb and Charleston Southern in the semifinals and finals.
Asheville won its second straight game on Wednesday as it broke open a close game late with an 86-73 victory over Campbell. Andrew Rowsey scored 24 points in the win, with Jaron Lane and D.J. Cunningham combining for 29 points in the second half. Corey Littlejohn contributed 11 points and eight rebounds in the win.
Liberty fell at home on Tuesday to Winthrop, 73-62. The Eagles used a late run to pick up the road win.
The Bulldogs are tied with Coastal Carolina in the South Division for first place. The Chanticleers host Longwood on Saturday.
Rowsey leads Asheville in scoring with an 18.7 average. He has averaged 30.1 points in the last three games. Lane has a 14.3 scoring average and is averaging 17 points in league games. Cunningham has a 10.5 scoring mark. He leads the Big South in rebounding (9.8) and blocked shots (64). His 3.6 per game average has him ranked fifth nationally.
Liberty is led by forward Antwan Burrus with as 12.0 scoring average. Senior guard John Caleb Sanders has an 11.7 mark. Tomaz Gielo is averaging 10.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. Senior guard Davon Marshall, last year’s Big South Tournament MVP, has a 10.7 scoring average and has knocked down 54 three-pointers.
The Bulldogs are on the road for their next two games. Asheville plays at Radford Thursday night in a game televised by ESPNU before beginning South Division play again on Saturday at Presbyterian College. That game will be shown on ESPN3.
UNC Asheville leads the all-time series with the Flames, 30-20. The Bulldogs have captured the last three meetings, including an 83-69 victory last season at the Vines Center. LU’s last win in the series came in the 2010-11 season when John Brown tapped in a missed shot at the buzzer in overtime to give the Flames an 83-81 win. Asheville is 16-5 against Liberty in Asheville with most of those games coming in Justice Center. The teams last meet at Kimmel Arena two years ago with the Bulldogs winning, 98-75.
The Bulldogs are 33-8 at Kimmel over the past three seasons and are 20-4 against Big South Conference opponents.
Andrew Rowsey has scored in double figures in a Big South-leading 20 straight games. He has made 29 straight free throws, second best in school history.
The Bulldogs lead the Big South in free throw percentage at .744.
Asheville has shot better than 41 percent from the 3-point line in its last six games, including a season-high .545 (6-of-11) vs. Campbell on Wednesday.
The Bulldogs have 23 steals in the last two games and that includes a season-high 12 vs. Campbell.
Asheville was out-rebounded by Campbell on Wednesday but won. The Bulldogs are 3-7 when they’re out-rebounded but three of those wins have come in league play.
Andrew Rowsey has been named Big South Player of the Week four times this year and three times in the last five weeks.
Senior center D.J. Cunningham is now fourth all-time in career rebounding at UNC Asheville with 729 rebounds. He is second all-time in blocked shots with 244. He needs 12 blocks to move past John Williams (255) for the all-time lead at Asheville. Cunningham is just the second player in Big South history to have more than 700 rebounds and 200 blocked shots.