MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. - The UNC Asheville men's basketball team will begin its run at a third straight Big South Conference tournament championship and ticket to the NCAA Tournament on Tuesday when the Bulldogs battle Longwood at 2 p.m. in the first round of the VisitMyrtleBeach.com Big South Basketball Championship at the HTC Center on the campus of Coastal Carolina.
Tuesday's game will be broadcast locally on WWNC Radio (570-AM) starting at 2 p.m.
Asheville (16-15, 10-6 BSC) finished in third place in the South Division this season, while the Lancers (7-24, 4-12 BSC) came in sixth in the North Division. The teams played once this year back on Jan. 19 with the Bulldogs edging Longwood, 68-65 at Kimmel Arena.
Eddie Biedenbach's club is struggling a little bit coming into the tourney with losses in five of their last six games. The Bulldogs fell at Winthrop on Saturday, 70-61. Longwood survived a 14-game losing streak in the middle of the year and enters the tourney with wins in four of its last seven contests. The Lancers won three straight league games before falling at VMI on Saturday, 94-80.
"We're excited about going to the Big South Tournament and hopefully we can play a little better than we've been playing," commented Biedenbach. "Tournament time means a new season. We've got to put the past few weeks behind us and get ready for Longwood."
The winner of the Asheville-Longwood game faces VMI on Thursday at 2 p.m. in the quarterfinals. The semifinals will be on Saturday with the championship game slated for Sunday at Noon.
"We've got a tough test awaiting us with Longwood," stated Biedenbach. "They've played very well in the last month of the season and can really score. We barely beat them at our place. Our guys are going to have to play better than we did on Saturday."
Senior forward Jeremy Atkinson earned first team All-Conference honors on Sunday. He leads the Bulldogs in scoring with a 17.7 scoring average and rebounding with a 7.0 mark. Sophomore guard Keith Hornsby is second in scoring with a 15.1 mark. He's second on the nation in free throw percentage at .930 (93-of-100).
Longwood is led by guard Tristan Carey with a 15.6 scoring average. He has knocked 76 three-pointers this season. Michael Kessens is averaging 13.1 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. David Robinson, who scored a game-high 20 points against the Bulldogs back in January, averages 8.8 points per game and has connected on 36 treys this season.
"Longwood won at Winthrop which we didn't do, and they just won at Campbell last week," admitted Biedenbach. "I'm sure they're (Longwood) very excited about competing in their first conference tournament."
UNC ASHEVILLE TOURNAMENT NOTES
The Bulldogs have won six straight Big South Tournament games en route to their two championships. Asheville has won those tournament games by an average margin of 17.8 points per game.
The Bulldogs' 2011 title came two years ago to the date (March 5) just a few yards away from the HTC center when Asheville beat Coastal Carolina, 60-47 in Kimbel Arena.
UNC Asheville has been in post-season play in three of the last five years with an NIT berth in 2008 and NCAA bids in 2011 and 2012.
The Bulldogs have advanced to the semifinals of the tournament for six consecutive years, the longest stretch on any team in the Big South.
Asheville is 0-1 in first-round Big South Tournament games, losing to Winthrop in the 1993 championship, 101-87 in North Charleston, S.C.
The Bulldogs have won 22 straight games against teams from the North Division.
Asheville is 3-0 all-time against Longwood. However, prior to this season the Bulldogs had not played the Lancer program since sweeping a pair of games back in the 1985-86 season. Jerry Green was Asheville's head coach at the time.
Jeremy Atkinson has scored in double figures in 38 of the Bulldogs last 39 games dating back to last season.
D.J. Cunningham needs one block to set the Asheville single-season record. He is tied with Kenny George at 93 blocks. Kenny blocked 93 shots in the 2007-08 season.
Eddie Biedenbach is the Big South's all-time leader in tournament victories with 20. He is 11-4 in the last six tournaments.