ASHEVILLE, N.C. – The UNC Asheville men’s basketball team will play perhaps the biggest Big South Conference regular-season game at Kimmel Arena on Saturday afternoon when the Bulldogs host South Division leader Coastal Carolina starting at 2 p.m.
Saturday’s game can be heard locally on WPEK Radio (880-AM) with the pre-game show starting at 1:30 p.m. Fans can also watch the game for free on the Big South Digital Network under the multimedia tag at uncabulldogs.com.
The Bulldogs (14-13, 8-5 BSC) stand one game behind the Chanticleers (16-11, 9-4 BSC) in the race for first place in the South Division. Winthrop and Gardner-Webb are tied with Asheville for second place. The Eagles and Runnin’ Bulldogs play each other on Saturday in Boling Springs, N.C. The top two finishers in each division get a bye in the Big South Conference Tournament that will be held at Coastal Carolina in less than two weeks (March 4-9).
Asheville broke a two-game losing streak with an 82-71 home win over Charleston Southern Wednesday night. The Bulldogs were led by Andrew Rowsey with 24 points and eight rebounds, while Jaron Lane chipped in 22 points and seven rebounds. Asheville built a 45-26 halftime lead and held off several CSU comebacks in the second half to record the win.
Coastal Carolina has won seven of its last nine games but fell at Winthrop in a foul-filled contest Wednesday night, 75-65. Freshman guard Elijah Wilson is one of the top guards in the Big South and is averaging 16.2 points per game. Junior guard Josh Cameron has a 14.1 scoring average and has knocked down 56 treys. Cameron scored 29 points against the Bulldogs last month (Jan. 15) in CCU’s 81-78 victory in Conway.
“Coastal Carolina is a very good basketball team. Cliff Ellis is an excellent coach and they’re playing really well right now,” explained Bulldog coach Nick McDevitt. “They’re a very good defensive team that doesn’t make anything easy for you on offense. Coastal has a lot of weapons on offense and beat you both inside and outside.”
In the first meeting, the Bulldogs led 40-36 at halftime only to see the Chanticleers quickly take charge of the game early in the second half. CCU led by 14 late only to see Asheville roar back in the final minutes to cut the lead to two before hanging on for the win. Freshman guard David Robertson led the Dogs with a career-high 18 points in the contest.
“We didn’t play badly at Coastal Carolina the first time. It was a good game but we had a bad five-minute stretch on both offense and defense early in the second half that put us behind,” commented McDevitt. “We’ll need to play well for 40 minutes to have a shot at winning.”
Rowsey continues to lead the Bulldogs in scoring with a 19.7 average. Senior forward Jaron Lane is next with 15.0 points per game mark, followed by D.J. Cunningham (10.9). He continues to lead the Big South in rebounding (9.4) and blocked shots (3.5)
UNC Asheville finishes the regular season with two games. The Bulldogs travel to Winthrop Wednesday evening before hosting Gardner-Webb at Kimmel Arena (March 1) next Saturday afternoon starting at 4:30 p.m. Next Saturday’s game will be Senior Day as the school will honor its seniors prior to the game.
UNC Asheville is 13-6 since starting the season 1-7.
The Bulldogs next win will give the program 15 on the year and mark the seventh straight season Asheville has earned 15 wins.
Andrew Rowsey has scored in double figures in a Big South-leading 23 straight games. He is third nationally in freshman scoring with his 19.7 average.
The Bulldogs are 22-4 against Big South Conference teams at Kimmel Arena.
Coastal Carolina leads the all-time series 34-31 and won the last two meetings. Asheville is 2-0 vs. CCU at Kimmel Arena. Five of the last six regular-season meetings have been decided by three points or less.
Asheville has been out-rebounded in four of its last five games. However, the Bulldogs have won three of those contests.
Asheville has led at halftime of every home game this season.
In the Bulldogs last three losses; they have surrendered first-half leads of at least 12 points.
D.J. Cunningham is now the school’s all-time leader in blocked shots with 258. He is in fourth place on the school’s rebounding list with 763. D.J. is just the second player in Big South history to have more than 700 rebounds and 200 blocked shots. His 3.55 per game blocked shot average is fourth best nationally.