ASHEVILLE, N.C. - The UNC Ashville men's basketball team returns to Kimmel Arena Saturday to host Big South Conference newcomer Longwood starting at 4:30 p.m.
Saturday's game will be broadcast locally on WWNC Radio (570-AM) and video-streamed at www.uncabulldogs.com.
The game with the Lancers will be Signature Saturday as Bulldog fans can get autographs for UNC Asheville players after the game.
The Bulldogs (8-10, 2-2 BSC) begin a three-game homestand on Saturday against the Lancers (3-15, 0-4 BSC). Asheville is trying to bounce after a disappointing 74-68 loss at Big South-leader Charleston Southern Wednesday night. The Dogs led CSU by 12 early in the second half but couldn't finish the Bucs off. Asheville is now two games behind CSU in the South Division.
"We can't worry about the loss at Charleston Southern anymore. Hopefully, we'll learn from that defeat and play better the next time we get in that situation," explained Bulldog coach Eddie Biedenbach. "We didn't play badly, just not well enough to beat a team as good as Charleston Southern on the road."
Asheville has quickly turned its attention to Longwood. The Lancers have been in a majority of their games this year before falling short at the end.
"Longwood is well-coached and has some good players," declared Biedenbach. "We better be ready to play hard for 40 minutes against these guys. They've played a tough non-conference schedule and will be ready to play us on Saturday."
Senior forward Jeremy Atkinson leads the Bulldogs in scoring (16.9) and rebounding (7.6). Sophomore guard Keith Hornsby had his nine-game double-figure scoring streak snapped at Charleston Southern as he finished with eight points. Hornsby is second on the Bulldogs in scoring with a 14.7 average. He leads the nation in free throw percentage at .962 (51-of-53) and has made 35 straight free throws.
Longwood is led by Tristan Carey with a 15.2 scoring average. He's knocked down 42 three-pointers on the year. Michael Kessens has been a force inside for the Lancers with an 11.4 scoring average. He's averaging 9.4 rebounds per game and is shooting .543 (82-of-151) from the field.
Asheville will be glad to be home for awhile. The Bulldogs have played just six home games this season. Biedenbach's club will host Coastal Carolina on Wednesday night and then finishes the homestand next Saturday vs. High Point at 2 p.m.
The Bulldogs are in their second year of playing at Kimmel Arena and have been very successful here. Asheville brings a 20-3 record at its new home into today's game. The Bulldogs are 12-1 against Big South Conference opponents in Kimmel. They have won nine straight games against league teams here, counting last year's Big South Tournament. Asheville has won those nine games by an average margin of 18.1 points per game.
Junior center D.J. Cunningham is one of the best shot-blockers in the country. Cunningham has posted 51 blocks in 17 games. His 3.0 per game average leads the Big South and is 10th nationally. He set a new career high vs. Radford last week with seven blocks. D.J. enters today's game with a career total of 138 blocked shots and is in seventh place on the school's all-time career list. He needs just three to move past Kenny George (140) and into sixth place.
Despite the loss at Charleston Southern Wednesday night, the Bulldogs have still been the dominant team in the Big South the past two years. Asheville has won back-to-back championships and posted a 27-4 record against league opponents the past two seasons plus.
Jeremy Atkinson has scored in double figures in 17 of the Bulldogs 18 games this year.
Asheville is 8-0 when it has a better field goal percentage than its opponents. They are 0-10 when the opponent shoots better than the Bulldogs from the field.
The Bulldogs have averaged 18 turnovers in the past two games.
Asheville has 100 blocked shots on the year. That's 12 more than it had all of last season. The Bulldogs 5.6 per game average leads the Big South. Eleven different Bulldogs have blocked a shot this season.