Editor’s Note: UNC Asheville Associate Athletic Director Mike Gore will be traveling with the men’s basketball team throughout the season. Throughout the year, he will be doing a blog to give Bulldog fans a background look at this year’s team. Today’s blog talks about the past three games at College of Charleston and at Duke plus the games coming up at Rhode Island.
We were pretty surprised last week when we found out from the NIT that would play our third and fourth round games of the NIT Tip-Off at Rhode Island. We’ll play the host tonight and East Carolina tomorrow night.
It’s been a tough start to the year at 1-4 but a lot of promise. Our win against College of Charleston was amazing. We had just found out that Will Weeks wasn’t going to play and our guys dug down deep and found a way to win. What was most impressive was our resolve in overtime. We should have won in regulation and Charleston appeared to have all the momentum but we played in great in overtime and gave Nick McDevitt his first win as a head coach, 67-58.
Last week we headed to Duke for the first two rounds of the NIT. We played the fourth-ranked Blue Devils in the first game last Monday on ESPNU. We lost 91-55 but played hard and battled for 40 minutes against a Duke team that played very and shot well. There were bright spots as Sam Hughes, starting in place of Will Weeks, scored 16 points and had two impressive dunks. His first dunk came when he stole the ball at midcourt while a Duke manager was cleaning up a wet spot. Sam about ran him over but got the dunk and the play was quickly an internet sensation on You Tube. Freshman guard David Robertson did a nice job as well with 12 points.
This was only the second time we had played at Duke and it was pretty exciting. Doing the game on radio with Brian Hall and luckily my wife Lisa was able to come, we were up in the press box above the floor. It was not easy for any of us to get there but what a view and to stop and think how many great players have played in Cameron.
We would play Norfolk State the next night and this would be another tough assignment. The Spartans are picked to win the MEAC this year and went 16-0 in their league a year ago. They knocked off Missouri two years ago in the NCAA Tournament and have four starters back from last season.
It’s a game that goes back-and-forth. Another injury crops up when starting guard Corey Littlejohn hurts his ankle and can only play three minutes.
Norfolk State builds an early lead but can never run away from us. We get close and they always seem to hit a big bucket. It’s a little strange playing after Duke and East Carolina had played. Cameron was packed to the rafters just 45 minutes ago and now there’s less than 200 people watching the game.
NSU builds a 10-point lead midway through the second half but again we respond. We’re doing a great job on the boards and will end up with a 42-22 advantage. But they’re shooting the ball very well and we just can’t seem to get that big stop.
Norfolk State will get two big offensive rebounds down the stretch and are able to hold on and win, 80-78.
Once again there are bright spots. We were short-handed and took a very good team down to the wire. Sam Hughes was great once again with 16 points and a career-high eight rebounds. David Robertson follows up a tough first-half with 13 points in the second half. Jaleel Roberts just misses a double-double with nine points and nine rebounds.
As I said earlier, we were surprised that we’re going to Rhode Island. We find out late Wednesday morning that we’ll be making our first ever visit to the Ocean State.
Our travel plans has us leaving Kimmel Arena Sunday morning at 5:30 a.m. and getting to the Asheville Airport around 6 a.m.
There’s a pretty good bunch of people flying out leaving early. The security line takes some time, especially for me as they check out the radio equipment I’m bringing to Rhode Island. Brian Hall can’t make this trip, so yours truly will be doing play-by-play for both games.
We fly first to Detroit and then onto Providence. We’re on a pretty good-sized jet to Providence and it’s not close to full. All the guys are encouraged to spread out and for once basketball players look comfortable while flying.
The captain warns us as we get to Providence that we might run into some pretty strong winds which could cause a little turbulence. He’s accurate as the last part of the flight is a little bumpy. But we land safely and all is well.
It is cold up and down the East Coast and Rhode Island is no exception. The wind is really howling. It’s a sunny day but bitterly cold.
Our bus is ready to take us to our hotel. Our hotel is located in beautiful and historic Newport, Rhode Island. It is a beautiful hotel, located on a little island called Goat Island. No matter what room you have, you’ll look out on the ocean.
Our bus driver points out the church where Jackie Kennedy and JFK were married 60 years ago as Jackie was from Newport. The Vanderbilt’s, who also have a house in Asheville you might have heard of, have a summer home here.
We practice at 6 p.m. at Rhode Island’s old gym. They’re new arena is about 10 years old and called the Ryan Center. We’ll be there tomorrow.
It’s fun to think about this old gym and all the great players that have played here. Rhode Island has some good pretty good basketball tradition. Lamar Odom spent two years in the late 90’s before going to the NBA. He played here. We’re told that Lamar had been into town the day before watching Rhode Island play.
Monday brings a new day and it’s a little warmer out. Not much but thankfully the wind is not howling like it was yesterday.
We have shoot-around at Ryan Arena at 11 a.m. and are very impressed. It’s a beautiful 7,500-seat arena with luxuries boxes and seats close to the action. We understand they draw very well. They’re coached by Danny Hurley and this will be a tough game.
Our guys have a good practice and seem ready to play. Check back tomorrow for an update.