Asheville (17-7, 12-1 BSC) picked up its fourth straight win and improved to 7-0 in conference road games on Thursday with a hard-fought 89-86 win at VMI. The Bulldogs led 50-39 at halftime but quickly fell behind in the second half before rallying to win with some key buckets down the stretch and some missed free throws from VMI.
"I'm happy to get a road win, especially against a tough team like VMI," stated Asheville coach Eddie Biedenbach. "However, we didn't play as well we could have and were fortunate to get out of there with a victory on Thursday.
"We never seemed to be in synch offensively the whole night, and we didn't do a good job guarding the three-point line," added Biedenbach. "However, our guys did find a way to get a win and I'm proud of them for accomplishing that."
The Bulldogs face a tough task on Saturday as they a resurgent Liberty (9-15, 4-8 BSC) club that knocked off Gardner-Webb Thursday, 63-58. The Flames have won four of their last six games and are four points away from a six-game winning streak. Asheville downed Liberty on Jan. 7 at Kimmel Arena, 98-75.
"Liberty has a well-coached team that has been playing quite well lately," commented Biedenbach. "They're always very tough to beat at the Vines Center, and I'm sure they'll be ready to play Saturday night. Liberty posted a great win over Gardner-Webb Thursday night."
Matt Dickey led the Bulldogs at VMI with 26 points, while Chris Stephenson added 19 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Asheville shot .571 (32-of-56) from the field but committed 18 turnovers in the contest.
Dickey leads the Bulldogs in scoring with a 17.0 average. J.P. Primm is next with a 15.9 per game average. Chris Stephenson has a 13.8 mark, followed by Jaron Lane (12.4) and Jeremy Atkinson (10.8).
Liberty is led by last year's Big South MVP senior guard Jesse Sanders. He averages 12.4 points, 8.1 assists and 8.0 rebounds per game. His brother John Caleb Sanders averages 11.8 points per outing and has knocked down 42 treys.
"We caught Liberty when they were struggling a little bit last month but they're playing well now with five players scoring in double figures," explained Biedenbach. "We shot the ball very well the last time but they beat us on the boards, and John Caleb Sanders gave us fits."
Asheville shot .621 (36-of-58) from the field against Liberty the first time and went 15-of-29 (.517) from long distance in that game. The Bulldogs had six players in double figures, led by Primm's 21 points. He knocked down a career-best six 3-pointers in the win. John Caleb Sanders had 18 points, while older brother Jesse had 12 points and 10 assists.
The Bulldogs are 18-1 in their last 19 games against Big South Conference opponents. They have won nine straight BSC road games dating back to last year and last season's BSC Tournament.
Asheville has won 11 of its last 12 games and 15 of its last 18 contests.
The Bulldogs have shot at least 50 percent from the field in four of the last five games.
Matt Dickey has made 49 of his last 53 free throws. He was a perfect 11-of-11 from the free throw line on Thursday at VMI.
Asheville leads the Big South Conference in the following statistical categories in league games only: scoring (83.7), free throw percentage (.787), field goal percentage (.509), scoring margin (8.5), three-point percentage (.403), assists (17.4) and steals (8.9).
The Bulldogs are tied with VMI for second nationally in scoring with an 83.4 average.
Asheville is 9-13 all-time against Liberty at the Vines Center. The Flames have seven of the last nine meetings between the teams in Lynchburg. The Bulldogs lost here last season in overtime at the buzzer, 83-81.
Asheville has picked up two road wins this year against teams that were unbeaten at home. The Bulldogs knocked off Campbell on Jan. 12, 89-82 as the Camels were unbeaten at 7-0 at Gore Arena. On Thursday, Asheville edged VMI, 89-86 to snap the Keydets unbeaten string at home this year at nine. The Keydets had won 14 straight at home dating back to last season. VMI's last home loss prior to that game came against the Bulldogs.