ASHEVILLE, N.C. - Top-seeded UNC Asheville wrapped a 24-7 run around half-time and went on to defeat Charleston Southern 91-64 Thursday night in the semifinal round of the Advance Auto Parts Big South Championship at Kimmel Arena.
The defending Big South champion Bulldogs (23-9) will host seventh-seeded VMI (17-15) in Saturday's final, which will start at 12:00 p.m. on ESPN2. VMI defeated 6th seed Winthrop 75-55 in Thursday's first semifinal.
Asheville is in the championship game for the second straight season and eighth time overall. The 23 wins ties a school record for most wins in a season.
J.P. Primm scored 13 of his 27 points during the decisive burst and Asheville stretched a 7-point lead to as many as 32. Primm led four Bulldogs in double figures on 8-of-13 shooting, including 4-of-8 threes and 7-of-8 from the line. Jeremy Atkinson added 19 (11-11 free throws), plus 8 rebounds. Chris Stephenson chipped in 18 and Dickey 10 for Asheville, which shot 49 percent from the field and made 28-of-30 free throws (.933).
Saah Nimley led fourth-seeded Charleston Southern (19-12) with 20 points on 6-of-12 shooting, including 4-of-7 threes, plus 4-of-5 from the line. Senior forward Kelvin Martin, the league's defensive player of the year, added 15 points on 7-of-10 from the floor, 5 rebounds and 3 blocks. Asheville converted 18 Charleston Southern miscues into a 30-10 advantage in points off turnovers. The Bucs hit 11-of-28 threes (.393), but went to the line only 11 times (making 7).
Asheville finished with a 34-16 edge on points in the paint. With Dickey, the Big South player of the year, sitting out the final 7:58 of the opening half with two personal fouls, his senior back court running mate Primm scored 11 of his 13 first-half points in the final 6:34 of the period. A 9-0 run gave the Bulldogs a 24-12 lead with 9:37 to play, but the Bucs rallied and drew within 5 (26-21) on Martin's backdoor cut with 7:01 left.
Asheville led 44-31 at the break, thanks to 57 percent shooting from the field and a 26-10 edge on points in the paint. Atkinson joined Primm in double digits during the first half with 11 points.
"We played really well tonight and it started on the defensive end," stated Asheville coach Eddie Biedenbach. "We had a nice game offensively but it was our defense that won this game for us. I thought our guys were really focused tonight and played hard for 40 minutes."
Biedenbach expects a tough game with VMI Saturday.
"VMI is a very good basketball team that is playing extremely well right now," added Biedenbach. "We'll have to play just as well Saturday as we did tonight."
Tickets for Saturday's game are still available and can be purchased at www.uncabulldogs.com or by calling at 828-251-6904.