AUBURN, AL . - UNC Asheville placed four players in double figures and rallied to stun Auburn 70-69 in overtime Friday night at Auburn Arena.
The Bulldogs trailed 60-48 with 3:58 in regulation but outscored the Tigers 15-3 to send the game into overtime tied at 63-63. John Williams tapped in a missed free throw with 28 seconds left to knot the game.
In overtime, Asheville surged to a 70-65 lead on Williams' jumper with 3:09 left. The Bulldogs didn't score the rest of the way but made big defensive plays down the stretch to hold on for the win.
Auburn trailed 70-69 after a Bulldog miss with 10 seconds left and came down with the defensive rebound. Josh Wallace tried to win the game for the Tigers, but Chris Stephenson knocked the ball away and stole the ball with 2.7 seconds left to preserve the Asheville victory.
It was the Bulldogs first opening-game victory on the road since the 1978-79 season. The win also snapped a 14-game non-conference road losing streak dating back to the 2007-08 season. Ironically, Asheville's last non-conference road victory came at another SEC club, South Carolina on Jan. 5, 2008.
Alabama native Matt Dickey led the Bulldogs with 18 points. J.P. Primm followed with 16 points and four assists before fouling out midway through overtime. Jaron Lane came off the bench to score 14 points, all in the second half and overtime. Williams finished with a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds. D.J. Cunningham pulled down a team-high 12 rebounds.
The victory spoiled Auburn's first game in its new Auburn Arena as a close to sell-out crowd of 9,121 fans came out.
"I am so proud of our guys," said Bulldog coach Eddie Biedenbach afterwards. "We just did a great job coming back in the second half and finding a way to win the game.
"We played so well in the second half and got some big rebounds," added Biedebach. "Everyone stepped up and played so well."
The Bulldogs trailed early in the second half by at 39-21 but steadily came back behind good rebounding and better shooting. Asheville cut the lead to five midway through the second half before the Tigers pushed the lead back to 60-48 with 3:58 remaining.
Asheville did a good job getting to the free throw line and some clutch offensive rebounds to claw back. D.J. Cunningham tapped in a Bulldog miss with 36 seconds left to cut the lead to 63-61.
After an Auburn turnover in the backcourt, Primm was fouled with 33 seconds left. Primm missed both free throws but on the second miss, Williams soared over everybody to tap the ball into the basket to knot the game at 63-63.
Auburn had a chance to win the game at the end of regulation but Ernest Ross' three-pointer was well off as the game moved into overtime.
In overtime, Lane scored on a three-point play to give the Bulldogs the lead for good at 68-65 on Asheville's first possession.
Leading 70-65, a free throw from Adrian Forbes cut the lead to 70-66. After a Bulldog turnover, Kenny Gabriel knocked down a long three-pointer to narrow the lead to 70-69 at the 1:57 mark.
The Bulldogs didn't score again but ran close to a minute off the clock on the next possession as Asheville picked up two offensive rebounds. Stephenson just missed sealing the game as his three-pointer rimmed out with 10 seconds left.
The first half was all Auburn as the Tigers seized control of the game with a big run midway through the first half. Trailing 12-10 after Dickey's third 3-pointer, the home team outscored Asheville 18-2 over the next eight minutes to race to a 28-14 lead with 5:07 to go in the half. Auburn led 37-21 at halftime.
Auburn dominated the backboards in the first half as it out-rebounded Asheville, 30-15. The Tigers had 13 offensive rebounds in the opening half
UNC Asheville plays next at Furman Tuesday evening starting at 7 p.m. The Bulldogs first home game at Justice Center will be on Saturday, Nov. 20 against Virginia Intermont starting at 2 p.m.
The Bulldogs are now 3-24 all-time against teams from the Southeastern Conference...J.P. Primm had four assists and has 315 for his career as moved into seventh place on the Bulldog career list...Eddie Biedenbach has 197 victories as head coach at UNC Asheville in 15 years...John Williams has nine double-doubles in his career...Friday's win marked the greatest deficit the Bulldogs have been behind (16) at halftime and rallied to win since the 1999-00 season when they trailed by 17 to Coastal Carolina at intermission and won.