ASHEVILLE, N.C. - The UNC Asheville Bulldogs finish the regular season Saturday afternoon when they travel to Big South rival Winthrop starting at 4 p.m.
Saturday's game will be broadcast on ESPN3 and be heard locally on WWNC Radio (570-AM) starting with the pre-game show at 3:30 p.m.
The Bulldogs (16-14, 10-5 BSC) still have hope to earn a bye in next week's Big South Conference Tournament. Asheville is tied for second in the South Division with Gardner-Webb (10-5). However, the Bulldogs need to win over the Eagles and a loss by the Runnin' Bulldogs at home to Presbyterian College to get second place. GWU owns the tie-breaker with two wins over the Dogs.
Asheville could also finish in a three-way tie for first place if Charleston Southern loses tomorrow at home to Coastal Carolina. However, the Dogs cannot finish first as the Buccaneers swept Asheville, as well.
The Bulldogs downed Winthrop at Kimmel Arena on Feb. 6, 69-56. The Eagles led by 11 in the first half before Asheville rallied in the second half for the win. Keith Hornsby led the Bulldogs with 21 points, while Jeremy Atkinson added 20 that night. Asheville was able to get to the free throw line in that game as it went 28-of-32, while Winthrop was 11-of-19.
Veteran head coach Eddie Biedenbach isn't worried about what happens at Gardner-Webb or Charleston Southern on Saturday. He wants his team to play well and try and get some momentum into next week's tournament.
"We can't worry about other games right now because we have no control," commented Biedenbach. "I want our guys to simply worry about Winthrop. We're going to have a very tough game with them on Saturday. They gave us fits up here, and they've played well at home all year long."
Asheville broke a four-game losing on Wednesday with a 74-62 win over Presbyterian College. The Bulldogs led 39-22 at halftime and had to hold off several Blue Hose rallies in the second half to pick up the win.
"I thought we played really well on offense the whole game and did a nice job on the boards," said Biedenbach. "However, we didn't play as well in the second half, and Presbyterian made a run at us. We can' play good defense for just a half. We need to play with intensity for 40 minutes."
Winthrop (12-16, 5-10 BSC) has posted a solid 10-4 record at home this season, including wins over Gardner-Webb and Charleston Southern. Gideon Gamble leads the Eagle attack with a 10.0 scoring average. He's also knocked down 39 treys. Joab Jerome is also averaging 10 points per game and shooting .489 from the field. Andrew Smith leads the Winthrop 3-point shooting attack with 53 treys. The Eagles have been hit hard by the injury bug and lost two starters - Derrick Henry and Larry Brown - to season-ending injuries in the past few weeks.
"I was really impressed with Winthrop when we played them," declared Biedenbach. "They really took it to us in the first half, but our guys did a good job responding in the second half. Winthrop plays hard for 40 minutes and as always, they play excellent defense."
Jeremy Atkinson is third in the Big South in scoring entering this weekend with a 17.8 average. Keith Hornsby, who missed two games last week but played against PC on Wednesday, has a 15.2 scoring average. He is second nationally in free throw shooting at .929 (91-of-98). Trent Meyer leads Asheville with 64 three-pointers made and has a 10.1 scoring average.
The Bulldogs are 4-3 on the road this season in Big South Conference road games. Asheville is 14-4 in its last 18 games against BSC teams on the road. The Blue & White need a win on Saturday to put them over .500 on the road for the third consecutive season in league play. Asheville was 6-3 in 2010-11, 8-1 in 2011-12 and 4-3 this year.
Jeremy Atkinson has scored in double figures in 37 of his last 38 games. He has scored in double figures in all 15 BSC games this year. Atkinson has an outside shot at reaching 1,000 points in his career. He has 931 entering Saturday's game. If he could get to 1,000 career points, Atkinson would be just the third player in school history to reach 1,000 points in two years.
D.J. Cunningham blocked a career-high eight shots on Wednesday vs. Presbyterian College. He now has 89 for the season and needs just five to surpass Kenny George's single-season record of 93 set in the 2007-08 season. Cunningham is second in the Big South in blocked shots and 10th nationally at 3.1 per game.
Asheville shot a season-high .620 (31-of-50) from the field on Wednesday vs. Presbyterian.
After starting the season 3-of-30 from long range, the Bulldogs have started to heat up from the three-point line. Asheville was 8-of-13 (.615) on Wednesday night and shot at least 39 percent in the last four games.
Winthrop leads the all-time series 33-31, but the Bulldogs have captured the last three contests, including a sweep last season. Asheville has won its last two games at the Winthrop Coliseum, including a 73-68 overtime decision last season on New Year's Eve. Two of the last three games at Winthrop have gone to overtime.
The Bulldogs lead the Big South in blocked shots with 162 and a 5.4 per game average.
Asheville has now won 10 BSC games for six straight years.
The Bulldogs five league losses have come by no more than eight points and include a one-point and two-point defeat. In four of Asheville's five league losses, the Dogs led in the second half.
Asheville is 14-2 when it out-rebounds its opponents and 2-12 when it doesn't.