LEXINGTON, Ky. – The UNC Asheville men’s basketball team opens the 2013-14 season at top-ranked Kentucky Friday night before a sell-out crowd at Rupp Arena.
Friday’s game will be broadcast locally on WWNC Radio (570-AM) with the pre-game show starting at 6:30 p.m. The game can be seen on ESPN3 and ESPN Full Court. It will also be on television in the Asheville area on tape delay on Fox Sports South or Fox Sports Carolinas.
The Bulldogs begin the Nick McDevitt era Friday night. McDevitt has been a part of the Asheville program for 16 years, first as a player from 1997-2001 and then serving as an assistant and associate head coach under Eddie Biedenbach. When Biedenbach left to take an assistant job at UNC Wilmington, McDevitt was elevated to the top spot.
The first-year coach knows his young Bulldog team has a pretty big challenge Friday night.
“We’re going to find out in our first game where we stack up with the No. 1 team in the country,” said McDevitt. “But we’re looking forward to it. It’s a huge challenge, but to play in Rupp Arena against a team like Kentucky is going to be a tough test but a lot of fun.”
This is the first time the Asheville program has ever opened up the season against the top-ranked team in the nation. Friday’s game starts an eight-game road trip for the Bulldogs to open the season. Asheville will visit, Western Carolina. College of Charleston, Duke, play in the pre-season NIT and Charlotte before playing a home game on Dec. 12 against Bluefield at Kimmel Arena.
This is the fourth meeting on the hardwood between Asheville and Kentucky. The Wildcats lead the series 3-0. This is Asheville’s first visit to Rupp Arena since the 1999-00 season. The Bulldogs last game with Kentucky came four years ago at Freedom Hall in Louisville with the John Wall-led Wildcats winning handily, 94-57. The first meeting between the teams came on Dec.23, 1996 with the defending national champs winning, 105-51. UK won in 1990-00, 86-41 behind Tayshon Prince at Rupp. Bulldog head coach Nick McDevitt played in the game along with Asheville assistant coach Brett Carey.
Asheville won its exhibition game Monday night with an 86-45 victory over Brevard College at Kimmel Arena. The Bulldogs placed four players in double figures as freshman guard Andrew Rowsey led all scorers with 17 points. Junior guard Corey Littlejohn contributed 16 points and seven rebounds. Sophomore forward Will Weeks scored only two points but collected 10 rebounds and had eight assists with no turnovers.
Kentucky won both of its exhibition games handily as the Wildcats defeated Transylvania, 76-42 and Montavello, 95-72.
NOTING THE BULLDOGS
A Little Success against the SEC: UNC Asheville is 3-21 all-time against teams from the Southeastern Conference, including a 0-3 mark against Kentucky. Asheville’s last win against an SEC team came in the opening game of the 2010-11 season when the Bulldogs rallied past Auburn on the road, 70-69 in overtime. Asheville’s other two SEC wins have come against South Carolina, the most significant one coming in the 1996-97 season. The Bulldogs downed the Gamecocks in Columbia, 80-74. That South Carolina team would recover from that loss and win the SEC that year with a 15-1 record.
UNC Asheville vs. #1: This will be just the sixth time the Asheville program has taken on the top-ranked team in the country and as expected the Bulldogs are 0-5 in those games. The first time it happened came in the 1974-75 season when the Dogs opened the Asheville Civic Center against the defending national champion and top-ranked N.C. State Wolf pack. N.C. State would win 111-68. The last time came just two years ago when the top-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels came to open Kimmel Arena and would earn a hard-fought 92-75 victory.
Missing Some Scoring From Last Year: UNC Asheville enters tonight’s game with Kentucky without its top three scorers from last season. Forward Jeremy Atkinson led the Dogs with a 17.8 average before graduating. Guard Keith Hornsby averaged 15 points per game and was second in the nation in free throw percentage at .925 before transferring to LSU this summer. Senior guard Trent Meyer averaged 9.7 points per game and led the team in three-pointers made with 64 but will be out for a few weeks with an ankle injury. Only 23.2 points from last year’s club will be on the floor when the Bulldogs tip off against top-ranked Kentucky.
D.J.’s Block Party: Red-shirt senior center D.J. Cunningham tied for the Big South lead and was eighth nationally in blocked shots last season. He blocked 3.0 per shot per game and tied a single-season record for blocks with 93. Cunningham enters this season with 180 blocks and is third all-time at Asheville in career blocks. He needs 11 to pass C.J. Walker (190) into second place
But Jaron is Back: The Bulldogs are very happy to have red-shirt senior Jaron Lane back tonight. Lane was Asheville’s sixth man on its championships teams in 2011 and 2012. Lane averaged a career-best 11.5 points per game two seasons ago. He red-shirted last season due to a foot injury and missed the start of practice this year with a wrist injury. But Lane is 100 percent healthy now and showed that with 10 points in the first half of Asheville’s exhibition win over Brevard Monday night. He enters tonight’s game with an 8.8 career scoring average and 3.4 rebounding mark. Lane is shooting .529 from the field for his career and .733 from the free throw line.