MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. – UNC Asheville advanced to the semifinals of the Big South Conference Tournament for the seventh time in eight years as the Bulldogs downed Radford 96-87 in the quarterfinals of the league tournament Friday afternoon.
Asheville (17-14) will play Winthrop Saturday at Noon in the semifinals. The Eagles upset top-seed High Point 60-58 on a last-second three-pointer by Andre Smith.
Jaron Lane led all scorers for the Blue & White with 29 points, 24 in the second half. Andrew Rowsey added 27 points, 22 in the first half as the Bulldogs surged to a 47-36 halftime lead.
Senior center D.J. Cunningham was amazing in the win. He scored 18 points and grabbed a career-high 19 rebounds and blocked two shots. The 19 rebounds tied a Big South Tournament record and is the most rebounds by a Bulldog player in the school’s Division I era. He blocked two shots to become the single-season leader in blocked with 94.
“I’m really proud of our guys today,” stated first-year Asheville coach Nick McDevitt. “We really played well and got contributions from everyone who played. This was a sensational win against a great Radford team that won 21 games this season.
“We’re really excited about advancing in the tournament. Winthrop will be a very tough game tomorrow but we’re glad we’re going to be there,” added McDevitt.
Radford, the third seed from the North Division, trailed by 11 at the half, but was able to trim the margin to four (77-73) with 4:13 to go on Kyle Noreen’s three-pointer.
However, Lane made the first of two foul shots with 3:35 to play, then grabbed the rebound on the second and went back to the line where he hit both to start a 14-7 Bulldog spurt that again stretched the margin to double digits.
Radford’s second-half comeback was fueled by 19 second-chance points and 25 points off 19 Bulldog turnovers.
Cunningham (8-10), Lane (8-13) and Rowsey (10-15) combined to make 26-38 shots for Asheville, which hit 22-34 (.647) inside the arc and connected on 9-16 from 3-point territory. The second seed from the South Division, Asheville finished with a 33-23 edge on the boards.
After scoring 41 points in a 102-92 loss last month at Radford, Rowsey made 8-of-10 shots and had 22 before intermission Friday. He nailed a pair of threes to cap a 15-2 run and push the Bulldogs in front 26-15 with 10:52 to play.
Rowsey’s trey in transition put Asheville ahead 43-28 with 2:29 to go. Cunningham added 10 points and 10 boards in the opening period for Asheville, which led 47-36 at half-time.
Asheville hit 7-of-14 threes before the break. Radford made 53 percent of its shots in the opening half, but only 1-of-4 beyond the arc.