Asheville (9-6, 4-0 BSC) moved into first place in the early part of the season with a 94-85 victory over VMI at home Thursday night. Matt Dickey led five players in double figures with 23 points.
"We played well on offense for most of the night but needed to be a little more consistent on the defensive end," stated Asheville coach Eddie Biedenbach. "We're pleased to have not lost a game in the Big South Conference yet but it is a long season with plenty of games left. The standings right now don't mean a great deal. Our guys just need to get better with each game."
Liberty was the only team in the Big South Conference that UNC Asheville did not beat last season. The Flames captured a 59-55 decision at Justice Center and then edged the Dogs in overtime, 83-81 at the Vines Center. The Flames are 5-11 on the season and 0-4 in Big South Conference play. However, seven of their 11 losses have come by 10 points or less. Senior guard Jesse Sanders, last year's Big South Player of the Year, leads the LU attack with a 12.9 scoring and 8.2 rebounding average. He also leads the league in assists with 8.2 per game.
"Liberty has a well-coached team that has been in just about every game and been just a play or two short of winning," commented Biedenbach. "We know how good they are because they beat us twice last season in two close games. They made a play or two more than we did. Jesse Sanders is a great player that will do what it takes to win. Our guys know they have to be focused to play well for 40 minutes to have a shot at winning."
Senior guard Matt Dickey continues to lead Asheville in scoring with a 16.3 average. He's shooting an amazing .514 (76-of-148) from the field. Senior forward Chris Stephenson has a 14.9 scoring average and team-leading average in league games at 19 points per game. Stephenson also leads Asheville in rebounding with a 6.6 average.
Big Night for Dickey: Senior guard Matt Dickey continues to have an outstanding season for the Bulldogs. He scored a team-high 23 points on Thursday and as a result moved up the career ladder in scoring at Asheville. Matt has 1,474 points as he moved into seventh place on Asheville's scoring list past Josh Kohn (1,467). Next up is sixth place held by Andre Smith (1,495). In addition, Dickey has moved into seventh place on Asheville's career list for assists (356). He needs three to move past Smith (358) into sixth place. Matt moved into third place on Asheville's career list for three-pointers made in the last game. He now has 166 treys as he surpassed Willie Black (162). Sean Smith (197) is in second place.
Winning Ways: UNC Asheville enters today's game trying to extend a 10-game winning streak against Big South Conference opponents dating back to last season. The Bulldogs have won seven consecutive conference regular-season games and three games in the league tournament. The only Big South team Asheville did not beat last year was Liberty. The Flames edged the Bulldogs twice a year ago, 59-55 at Justice Center and 83-81 in overtime at the Vines Center.
Close Games: The last four times Asheville and Liberty have seen each game go down to the final possession. The Bulldogs swept the series two years ago, winning 74-70 in Lynchburg and 75-72 at Justice Center. LU returned the favor last season as it won 59-55 at Justice Center and 83-81 in overtime at the Vines Center. The last four meetings have been decided by a total number of 13 points.
J.P. Primm's March to History: Senior guard J.P. Primm became the school's all-time leader in assists last Monday night. He now has 528 career assists after his seven assists on Thursday vs. VMI. Primm has accumulated 211 steals in his career and needs 13 to move past Andre Smith (223) as the school's all-time leader. In addition, J.P. has 397 career rebounds. He needs three today to become the first ever player in Big South Conference history to record 500 assists, 200 steals and 400 rebounds.
Coming Attractions: The Bulldogs hit the road next week for two tough Big South Conference games on the road. Asheville travels to league newcomer Campbell Thursday night for a 7 p.m. contest. Next Saturday, the Bulldogs are at High Point, also at 7 p.m. The Bulldogs next home game will be on Jan. 17 when a rematch of the Big South Conference championship game takes place as Asheville hosts Coastal Carolina at 7 p.m.
A Big Night for Chris at Radford: Last Monday night, senior forward Chris Stephenson scored 33 points to lead Asheville to the 66-56 win over the Highlanders. The 33 points was the most by a Bulldog player since the 1998-99 season when Kevin Martin tallied 33 vs. Marshall. He enjoyed the second double-double of the year as he collected a game-high 10 rebounds. Chris has scored in double figures in seven consecutive games, averaging 18.7 points per game.