COLUMBUS, Ohio - The UNC Asheville Bulldogs start a demanding three-game road trip on Saturday when the Bulldogs take on #7 Ohio State at Value City Arena starting at Noon. Saturday's game will be televised by the Big 10 Network and broadcast on WWNC Radio with the pre-game show starting at 11:30 a.m.
Asheville travels to Northeastern on Tuesday (12-18) for its first ever game in Boston, followed by a game at St. John's (12-21) Friday night.
The Bulldogs have won two straight but face easily the best team they'll play this season in the Buckeyes. Ohio State is 7-1 on the year after an 85-45 win over Savannah State Wednesday night. Asheville earned its third win of the year with a hard-fought 66-55 victory over a 6-1 Lenoir-Rhyne squad. The Bulldogs trailed by four with 11 minutes remaining but went on a 20-5 run to take control of the contest.
Veteran head coach Eddie Biedenbach is very impressed with the Buckeyes.
"We've got a tremendous challenge on our hands with Ohio State on Saturday," stated Biedenbach. "They're impressive in all areas of the game and are extremely well-coached by Thad Matta. Ohio State is a team that could compete for the national championship this season.
"I'm really impressed with their (OSU) defense and how they pressure their opponents," added Biedenbach. "We're going to have to handle the ball much better than we've been doing lately. Our guys are going to have to be ready to play hard for 40 minutes against a team the caliber of Ohio State. Hopefully, this is a game that no matter what happens makes us a better basketball team as the year goes on."
This will be the fifth meeting between the Buckeyes and Bulldogs and the fourth time the teams have met in the last six seasons. All of the games have occurred in Columbus. The teams met for the first in the 1993-94 season with Ohio State winning easily, 92-59. It would be awhile before the schools would play again before meeting the first round of the NIT in 2008. The Buckeyes would earn an 84-66 victory en route to the NIT championship. Asheville came to Columbus two seasons ago with Ohio State winning handily, 96-49. The 47-point margin is the worst loss suffered by the Bulldogs in the last three seasons.
Senior forward Jeremy Atkinson continues to lead Asheville in scoring and rebounding. He has an 18.1 scoring average and 7.9 rebounding mark. He's scored in double figures in every game this season and despite seeing each team's best defender, Jeremy is shooting .532 (58-of-109) from the field. The Elm City native has posted two double-doubles on the year and scored at least 20 points in three different contests. Atkinson is among the Big South leaders in five different statistical categories. Jeremy is third in scoring (18.1), fourth in rebounding (7.9), third in three throw percentage (.815), fifth in steals (2.22) and seventh in field goal percentage (.532).
The Bulldogs are 0-13 vs. teams from the Big 10. Below are the teams Asheville has played.
Ohio State: 0-4, Michigan State: 0-4, Minnesota: 0-2, Iowa: 0-1, Purdue: 0-1 and Michigan 0-1.
UNC Asheville was able to beat Western Carolina on Nov. 9 despite not making a three-pointer for the first time since the 1994-95 season. The last time this occurred came on Jan. 5, 1995 when the Bulldogs lost to Charleston Southern, 74-65. That's a stretch of 498 games. Asheville went 0-7 from long distance against the Catamounts in that game. The Bulldogs almost made it two straight games before Jeremy Atkinson hit the first trey of the season midway through the second half. Trent Meyer added one later in the game. Asheville began the year really struggling from the three-point line as it went 3-for-30 in its first three games. But the Bulldogs have improved in that area. Asheville is 34-of-91 from beyond the arc for a respectable .374 percentage from long distance since that bad start.
UNC Asheville established a season-high in blocked shots on Wednesday when the Bulldogs blocked 11 shots against Lenoir-Rhyne. D.J. Cunningham led the block party with five blocks. Last year, Asheville had just 88 blocked shots on the season. This season, the Bulldogs have already accumulated 46 blocks on the season after just nine games. The Dogs opened the season with eight blocks against Western Carolina on Nov. 9 and then had eight blocks at UNC Wilmington two days later. Asheville is blocking 5.11 per shots a game which is second best in the conference. Ten different players have recorded a blocked shot for Asheville this season. Cunningham leads the Bulldogs with 19 in eight games. His 2.38 per game average is second best in the Big South.
There are not too many connections between UNC Asheville and Ohio State. However, there is one as Kevin Martin, who was a walk-on starter for the Buckeyes in the 1994-95 season before transferring to UNC Asheville. The Westerville Ohio native enjoyed a fabulous career for the Bulldogs. He was the 1999 Big South Conference Player of the Year and was a first team All-Conference performer in 1998 and 1999. Martin was a second-team All-Conference player in 1997. Kevin helped lead the Bulldogs to the 1997 and 1998 Big South Conference regular-season championships. He is 15th all-time at the school in career scoring with 1,340 points. His 21.9 scoring average in his senior year was the second highest in school history.
Junior guard Trent Meyer began the year 1-of-16 from long distance but has gone 18-of-42 (.429) since that bad start t .429. He's averaging 14.8 points over the last five games and is Asheville's third leading scorer with an 11.6 average.
The Bulldogs were a school-record 8-5 on the road last season but are 0-2 this season.
Asheville is looking for its first road victory in the state of Ohio. The Bulldogs are 0-7 all-time in the Buckeye state on the road. However, two of the biggest wins in school history have come in Dayton, Ohio at the NCAA Tournament. In 2003, Asheville downed Texas Southern 92-84 in overtime in the NCAA Tourney's Opening Round Game. In 2011, the Bulldogs rallied past Arkansas-Little Rock, 81-77, also in overtime, in the "First Four." Asheville's last trip to Ohio came last season against the Ohio Bobcats in the ESPN Bracketbuster series with Ohio winning, 81-62.