Asheville (20-13) advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament with a thrilling 81-77 overtime victory over Arkansas-Little Rock in the "First Four" at Dayton Arena Tuesday night. Matt Dickey and J.P. Primm each had 22 points in the victory. Dickey hit a three-pointer that tied the game with 10.7 seconds left in regulation. Primm went 5-of-6 from the free throw line and had a key steal in the final two minutes to give the Bulldogs the winning points down the stretch.
Asheville didn't have much time to celebrate as the Bulldogs flew to Washington, D.C. after the game and arrived in their hotel rooms at approximately 3 a.m.
The team rested for most of the day before going to the Verizon Center at 5 p.m. for interviews and practice.
"I think our guys are in good shape physically and mentally," stated Bulldog coach Eddie Biedenbach. "We've had a long day and night but young people are very resilient. We're looking forward to playing Pittsburgh tomorrow and we'll go from there.
"Last night was a tremendous victory," added Biedenbach. "We kept battling against a very good Arkansas-Little Rock team. We were fortunate to make some plays at the end and in overtime to get the victory. "
Asheville has a pretty big challenge in taking on the Big East Regular-Season champion Pitt Panthers. Pittsburgh is 27-5 on the season and ranked third in the country behind Ohio State and Kansas.
"We know Pittsburgh is a great basketball team that is quite capable of winning the national championship this year," declared Biedenbach. "They really rebound the basketball very well and play strong defense. Jamie Dixon (Head coach at Pittsburgh) is an excellent coach who always has his team playing hard for 40 minutes.
"We have a big challenge but hopefully the fact we've played at Georgetown, Ohio State, North Carolina and Auburn will help us in tomorrow's game," added Biedenbach. "We're going to have to battle hard on the boards and play very well tomorrow to have a chance."
BULLDOG TOURNAMENT NOTES
UNC Asheville has won seven straight games. It's the longest winning streak by the Bulldogs since last year's team won seven consecutive games midway through the season.
The Bulldogs are now 2-1 in NCAA Tournament games. Asheville is a perfect 2-0 in opening round games with both victories in overtime. The Bulldog program has won more NCAA Tournament games than any other program in the Big South Conference.
Asheville head coach Eddie Biedenbach is a native of Pittsburgh. He was a three-sport athlete at Edgewood HS in Pittsburgh.
The Bulldogs feature three career 1,000-point scorers. Junior forward Matt Dickey has 1,212 career points. Senior forward John Williams has 1,166 points. Junior guard J.P. Primm has 1,151 points.
J.P. Primm's next steal will give him 70 on the season and that will set a new single-season record for a Bulldog player. He is currently tied with Andre Smith, who had 69 steals in the 2002-03 season. Primm also moved into second place on Asheville's career list for assists in Dayton. He now has 462 assists, passing George Gilbert with 460.
The Bulldogs won on Tuesday, despite trailing 37-33 at halftime and by 10 points midway through the second half. Asheville is 3-10 now when trailing at halftime. The victory marked the first time the Bulldogs had trailed at halftime and won since an 85-79 overtime win over Western Carolina on Dec. 28 at Justice Center. In that game, the Dogs trailed 30-29 at halftime. However, in Asheville's current seven-game winning streak, the Bulldogs have trailed in the second half in four of those games.
The Bulldogs won their 20th game on Tuesday in Dayton. It marks just the second 20-win season for the Asheville program since going Division I 25 years ago.
This is the Bulldogs second game this year at the Verizon Center. Asheville played here on Nov. 27 against Georgetown and lost, 87-72.
Matt Dickey and J.P. Primm scored 22 points each in the victory over UALR on Tuesday. It marked the just the second time this season that they both scored more than 20 points in a game. The other game was in a 93-91 double-overtime loss at USC Upstate on Nov. 29. Primm scored a career-high 26 points, while Dickey had 20 points. The duo has both scored in double figures in 22 games this season.