BOILING SPRINGS, N.C. – Jaron Lane scored a career-high 26 points to lead UNC Asheville to an 81-77 Big South Conference win over Gardner-Webb Wednesday night at Porter Arena.
The Bulldogs (7-8, 1-0 BSC) won their opening game in league play for the ninth straight year. Asheville is now 16-1 in Big South opening games with Nick McDevitt as a player, assistant coach and now head coach.
D.J. Cunningham finished with 12 points and seven rebounds. He scored the go-ahead bucket and hit two free throws to help give the Bulldogs their sixth win in the last seven games
David Roberson added 13 points for the Blue & White, while Andrew Rowsey contributed 12 points.
The game was tied at 75-75 when Cunningham hit a short jumper in the lane with 25 seconds left to give Asheville the lead for good at 77-75.
After a Bulldog time-out, Gardner-Webb (7-9, 0-1 BSC) went for the tying bucket, but Cunningham blocked Donta Harper’s shot in the lane. He came down with the rebound and was fouled with 14 seconds left.
Facing a one-and-one, Cunningham knocked down both free throws to push the lead to 79-75. The Runnin’ Bulldogs missed on their next possession. Corey Littlejohn came down with the rebound with six seconds remaining. He was fouled and hit both free throws to give Asheville an 81-75 lead.
“I’m really proud of our guys. We showed a lot of resolve and got the job done,” stated Bulldog coach Nick McDevitt. “We beat a very good team on the road and made plays in the end to get a huge victory.
“Our seniors in Jaron Lane and D.J. Cunningham really stepped up big for us down the stretch,” added McDevitt. “We faced some adversity but our guys dug deep to find a way.”
Lane scored 19 of his 26 points in the second half. He went 10-of-17 from the field and was a perfect 5-of-5 from the charity stripe. Cunningham scored 10 of his 12 points in the second half.
The Bulldogs fell behind early as Gardner-Webb jumped out to a 23-9 lead after nine minutes. Asheville made just three of its first 15 field goal attempts in the contest.
But the Bulldogs roared back with Hughes and Cunningham on the bench. Asheville outscored the Runnin’ Bulldogs 20-4 to race to a 29-24 lead. Lane led the comeback with seven points but the Bulldogs defense was the key. Gardner-Webb missed 11 of its final 12 field goal attempts of the opening half and had eight turnovers during the Asheville run.
“We always start slowly down here,” commented McDevitt. “However, our guys battled through it and made a tremendous run in the last 10 minutes of the first half to change the game around.”
UNC Asheville is back in action Saturday afternoon at Kimmel Arena when the Bulldogs welcome Presbyterian College for a 2 p.m. league contest.
The Bulldogs are 19-8 in Big South Conference regular-season road games over the last three seasons…Andrew Rowsey has scored in double figures in 14 of Asheville’s 15 games…the Bulldogs are 9-2 vs. Gardner-Webb since the Runnin’ Bulldogs joined the Big South Conference…Asheville was out-rebounded 32-31 and it marked the first time the Bulldogs won a game this despite being out-rebounded…Jaron Lane is closing in on 1,000 career points and now has 971 points...David Robertson scored in double figures for the seventh times this year.