ASHEVILLE, N.C. - The UNC Asheville Bulldogs hope to build some momentum and end a two-game losing streak on Thursday night when Asheville returns to Kimmel and hosts Gardner-Webb starting at 7 p.m. Thursday's game will be broadcast locally on WWNC (570-AM) radio at 6:30 p.m. Fans can also watch the game via video-streaming at www.uncabulldogs.
The Big South Conference regular-season champions look to win their 20th game of the season and enjoy back-to-back 20-win seasons for just the second time in school history. Asheville (19-9, 14-2 BSC) hopes to play better than it did last week when it fell at Coastal Carolina, 74-69 last Tuesday night and 81-62 at Ohio Saturday night in the ESPN Bracketbuster series.
The Blue & White face a Gardner-Webb team that is 12-17 on the season and 6-10 in league play. Asheville edged the Runnin' Bulldogs 66-60 on Dec. 1 in the first conference game of the season. The Bulldogs trailed 14-1 in the first eight minutes of the game but rallied to get the victory behind 15 points from Jaron Lane.
"We were fortunate to win at Gardner-Webb earlier this year," stated Asheville coach Eddie Biedenbach. "Our defense was good the whole night which allowed us to get through the game despite having a tough night on offense.
"Gardner-Webb is a well-coached team," added Biedenbach. "They've played everyone tough this year and I expect another tough game with them Thursday night. It's always a battle when we play them."
Biedenbach would like to see the Bulldogs play better in the first half against Gardner-Webb. Asheville averaged just 19 points in the first half of both games last week, scoring 20 at Coastal Carolina and then just 18 points at Ohio.
"We're not getting off to good starts and that's happened more than just last week," commented Biedenbach. "With tournament time just around the corner, we'll need to be ready to play 40 minutes, instead of 20 or 30 minutes."
Senior guard Matt Dickey continues to lead the Bulldogs in scoring with a 17.1 average. Dickey has scored in double figures in 25 of Asheville's 28 games this season. Senior guard J.P. Primm is averaging 15.1 points per game. Senior forward Chris Stephenson, who missed the Ohio game with an injury, is expected back in the line-up on Thursday and averaging 13 points per game.
Gardner-Webb is led by guard Tashan Newsome with an 11.5 average. He averages seven rebounds per game. Sharp-shooting guard Max Landis is averaging 10.1 points per game. He's knocked down a team-leading 56 three-pointers.
UNC Asheville is 10-2 at home this season and is averaging 94 points per game at Kimmel Arena.
The Bulldogs have out-rebounded four of their last five opponents and were even with Ohio on Saturday night at 32 rebounds each.
UNC Asheville has allowed its last two opponents to shoot .488 (19-of-39) from the three-point line.
UNC Asheville was the first team in the nation to clinch its conference regular-season crown and guarantee itself in post-season play when the Bulldogs rolled past Radford on Feb. 11 at Kimmel Arena, 88-62. The victory sealed Asheville's fifth Big South Conference regular-season title and a berth in at least the National Invitational Tournament if the Bulldogs don't win next week's Big South Tournament title.
UNC Asheville has been very good offensively for most of the season and a look at the Bulldogs ranking nationally bears that out. The Bulldogs are fourth nationally in points per game with an 81.6 average. Asheville is eighth in assists with a 16.6 per game mark. The Bulldogs stand 16th in free throw percentage (.758) and 17th in field goal percentage (.485).
Senior guard Matt Dickey is having a sensational senior season. Much was expected from Dickey in 2011-12 as he was named Big South Preseason Player of the Year. Matt has delivered and then some. He comes into tonight's action fourth in the Big South in scoring (17.1), second in free throw percentage (.863), eighth in assist (3.61) and eighth in steals (1.4). He has made his mark on the Bulldog record book as Matt is third all-time in career scoring with 1,709 points. His 406 career assists places him fifth all-time in that category at Asheville. He has 178 steals putting him third all-time in steals.
The Bulldogs had a season-high 24 turnovers at Ohio Saturday. Asheville has only had two games this season where it has turned the ball over more than 20 times.