NEW YORK -- Jeremy Atkinson scored a career-high 31 points, 13 in UNC Asheville's game-turning 23-4 run, and grabbed nine rebounds as the Bulldogs rallied past St. John's 72-65 on Friday night
The Bulldogs (5-7) trailed by 17 points in the first half and were down 54-42 with 12:11 remaining.
Atkinson keyed the big burst, hitting all three of his 3-point field goals. He was 6 of 10 overall in the second half when Asheville shot 48.4 percent and made four of its nine 3-point attempts.
Keith Hornsby's breakaway dunk gave the Bulldogs a 65-58 lead with 4:10 to play. The Red Storm (8-4) answered with a 7-0 run to tie the game at 65 with 2:03 left.
Hornsby hit a 3 to break the tie with 1:30 left and that started the Bulldogs' game-closing 7-0 run.
Hornsby had 14 points and Will Weeks added 10 points and nine rebounds. The Bulldogs beat a Big East team for the first time in 16 games.
Asheville, two-time defending Big South champions, outrebounded the Red Storm 40-30, including 13-7 on the offensive end.
D'Angelo Harrison had 24 points for the Red Storm, who had won six of seven. JaKarr Sampson had 17.
Asheville scored the last five points of the first half -- all off St. John's turnovers -- to get within 40-30. The Red Storm led 38-21 with 3:12 left on a fadeaway by Sampson.
"What a great win for our guys tonight," commented Bulldog coach Eddie Biedenbach. "We're not there but yet but we're learning and getting better and better with each game.
"Tonight we didn't get off to a good start as we let St. John's beat us down the floor and let their pressure bother us," added Biedenbach. "But we forced some turnovers late in the first half to get the deficit down to 10 (40-30) and played much better in the second half."
"Jeremy Atkinson is a man and he was just tremendous this evening," declared Biedenbach. "He made some big shots down low, got some tough rebounds and started hitting some 3-pointers. Jeremy can make those 3-pointers and in the second half he knocked them down. He had a great game.
"However, everyone who played tonight contributed to this victory," Biedenbach also said. "D.J Cunningham did a great job in the second half and got some big rebounds and buckets. Trent Meyer didn't score a lot but did a nice job running our offense. Keith Hornsby hit a pretty big 3-pointer to put us up for good. He also played some great defense the whole night."
This capped Asheville's three-game, eight-day trip that started with a loss at No. 7 Ohio State followed by a win over Northeastern.
The Bulldogs play again on Sunday, Dec. 30 at 2 p.m. when they host Bluefield College.
NOTING THE BULLDOGS
Jeremy Atkinson has scored in double figures in all 12 of the Bulldogs games this season. Dating back to last season, he has scored in double in 20 straight contests. The 31 points by Atkinson is a career-high. This marks the first time a Bulldog player has scored 30 or more points since Matt Dickey scored 31 points vs. Campbell on Jan. 28, 2012.
Asheville had 11 turnovers in the first half but just four in the second half.
The Bulldogs were a perfect 8-of-8 from the free throw line in the second half.
D.J. Cunningham blocked three more shots on Friday night to give him a total of 29 for the season. He has 15 blocks in the past four games.
This marked the third straight year that Asheville has beaten a BCS school. The Bulldogs won at Auburn in 2010-11, knocked off Utah last year and St. John's this season.
Asheville trailed by 17 points late in the first half. It's the biggest comeback win for the Bulldogs since trailing Auburn by 19 two years ago.
The Bulldogs blocked six shots at St. John's. They now have 37 blocks in the last five games.
Asheville has won two straight and four out of the last five.
The Bulldogs are now 2-3 on the road this year. Asheville owns two non-conference regular-season road wins on the season and that's the most since the Blue & White posted three road wins in the 2007-08 season.
UNC Asheville's 72-65 win was the same exact score when Syracuse edged the Bulldogs, 72-65 in last year's memorable NCAA Second Round Tournament game in Pittsburgh.