DURHAM, N.C. – The UNC Asheville Bulldogs make their second appearance ever at Cameron Indoor Stadium when they travel to Durham to take on the fourth-ranked Duke Blue Devils in the first round of the Preseason NIT. Asheville enters the Duke game on a high after a thrilling overtime 67-58 overtime road win over College of Charleston Friday night.
The Bulldogs were without the services of starting power forward Will Weeks but led most of the way before finishing the job in overtime over the Cougars.
Monday's game will be broadcast locally on WWNC Radio (570-AM). It will be televised nationally by ESPNU with Tom Hart and Doris Burke on the call.
Tonight’s game is the fourth of the season for Asheville but it will mark the second game against a highly-ranked opponent. The Dogs opened the season at #1 Kentucky and fell, 89-57.
Duke is 2-1 on the season and first-year coach Nick McDevitt looks forward to the challenge to taking on the Blue Devils.
“We’re honored to be in the Preseason NIT and excited to be playing at a historic place like Cameron Indoor Stadium,” declared McDevitt. “We’re going to face one of the top programs in the nation in Duke on Monday. It’s going to be a big challenge but one we’re looking forward to. This is a chance to play on national television against. You can’t help but be excited about this opportunity.”
Asheville plays in the second round of the Preseason NIT on Tuesday against East Carolina or Norfolk State at 8:30 p.m., also in Durham.
The Bulldogs are coming off their first win of the season when Asheville outlasted College of Charleston in overtime on the road Friday night, 67-58. Freshman guard Andrew Rowsey scored 23 points, while D.J. Cunningham added 12 points and 10 rebounds plus six blocked shots to give the Bulldogs the win.
“I’m really proud of our guys tonight to come here tonight and find a way to win,” stated McDevitt. “Our zone defense did a great job throughout the game. We built a good lead, let it get away in the second half but got the job done in overtime. We showed a lot of heart and courage.”
This is the just the second time Asheville and Duke have ever met on the hardwood. That game occurred on Dec. 17, 2008 with the Blue Devils pulling away in the second half to record a 99-56 victory. Duke placed six players in double figures in the win as Kyle Singler and Gerald Henderson had 14 points each as the Blue Devils raised their record to 9-1 with the victory. Duke knocked down 11 three-pointers the victory.
Winning Ways: UNC Asheville has been the winningest team in the Big South Conference over the past three years. The Bulldogs have posted a 60-40 overall record over the last three years with two Big South Conference championships and one regular-season title. In Big South Conference play, Asheville has gone 37-15 in league contests during this period.
Rousing from Rowsey: With Asheville’s injuries in the backcourt, the Bulldogs have needed someone to step and freshman guard Andrew Rowsey has been sensational in the early part of the season. Andrew enjoyed an incredible high school career at Rockbridge HS in Lexington, Va. He was the 2013 Virginia High School Player of the Year with a 35.8 scoring average and scored 2,637 career points, the second highest in the state of Virginia. Rowsey has been ready to play from the start and has been the Bulldogs starter in the backcourt right away. He led Asheville with 17 points vs. Brevard in the exhibition tilt on Nov. 4 before tallying 12 points at Kentucky (11-9) in the season-opener. Rowsey led an Asheville comeback at Western Carolina with a game-high 24 points. The rookie guard showed his range from the outside against the Cats by going 6-of-12 from beyond the arc. Andrew showed the WCU was no fluke with 23 points against the College of Charleston. Rowsey was 8-of-11 from the field, 3-of-6 from beyond the arc and a perfect 4-of-4 from the charity stripe in 44 minutes of playing time. Andrew is the first Bulldog freshman in 10 years to have back-to-back games of 20 points or more. He comes into Duke as Asheville’s leading scorer (19.7) and is shooting .524 (22-of-42) from the field. Rowsey is averaging a team-high and Big South-leading 38.3 minutes per game.
Middle of a Long Road Trip: The Bulldogs play their first eight games away from home to begin the season. Asheville took on top-ranked Kentucky (Nov. 8) to open the season, played at mountain rival Western Carolina last Monday (Nov. 15), won at CAA favorite College of Charleston Friday (Nov. 15) and now Duke for the Preseason NIT. The Bulldogs take on Duke tonight and play either East Carolina or Norfolk State Tuesday night in Durham. Asheville will then play two more games in the NIT the following week before ending the eight-game journey at Charlotte on Dec. 1. The Bulldogs first regular-season home game will be with Bluefield on Dec. 12.
D.J.’s Off to Great Start: The Bulldogs are going to need a big year from red-shirt senior center D.J. Cunningham this season. And the early returns are quite promising. Cunningham has grabbed at least 10 rebounds in three straight games to open the season for the first time in his career. He has also posted back-to-back double-doubles for the first time in his career, as well. The Waterford, Ohio native is Asheville’s third leading scorer (12.7) and top rebounder (10.7). He also has resumed his shot-blocking prowess. Cunningham was eighth nationally in blocked shots last year with 93, tying a single-season school record in the process. D.J. has 12 in the first three contests with six at Charleston Friday night. He moved into second place on Asheville’s career list for blocks and now has 192. Cunningham also moved into 11th place on the school’s career for rebounds at 585. When he gets to 200 rebounds and 600 blocked shots, D.J. will be just the second player in school history to reach those figures.
Bulldogs Could be Without Weeks: UNC Asheville could be without the services of sophomore forward Will Weeks tonight and tomorrow. Weeks injured his knee in the Western Carolina game and did not play against College of Charleston Friday night. The sophomore forward was Asheville’s starter the power forward spot last season and earned a spot on the Big South All-Freshman team. He averaged 9.0 points and 5.4 rebounds per game in 2012-13 plus shot .594 from the field along with 57 assists. Will was off to a great sophomore season as he scored a team-high 19 points at Kentucky and was averaging 13 points and 7.0 rebounds per game after the first two contests.