KINGSTON, R.I. – The UNC Asheville men’s basketball team will journey to the University of Rhode Island for the third and fourth rounds on the NIT Tip-Off. The Bulldogs face Rhode Island Monday night at the Ryan Center starting at 7:30 p.m., followed by a game with in-state foe East Carolina Tuesday afternoon starting at 5 p.m.
Both games will be broadcast locally on WWNC Radio (570-AM) with the pre-game show at 7 p.m. on Monday and 4:45 on Tuesday.
Asheville (1-4) opened play in the NIT last week at Duke. The Bulldogs fell to fourth-ranked Duke on Monday, 91-55 before losing the next night to MEAC favorite Norfolk State, 80-78.
“We competed hard in both games and did some things but not enough to win,” stated first-year coach Nick McDevitt. “When you play good teams, you have to be consistent and play well for 40 minutes.”
McDevitt’s club faces two more good teams this week in Rhode Island. The Rams are 4-2 on the young season and are expected to be a factor in the Atlantic 10 race this season. They’re coached by Danny Hurley.
East Carolina is 4-1 this season with the only loss being a close 83-74 decision at Duke Tuesday night.
“We’ve got two more tough games up in Rhode Island and then we end the week (Dec. 1) with a game against a very good Charlotte team that’s playing for the Puerto Rico Shootout championship tonight,” stated McDevitt. “Playing these games is only going to make us better as we get closer to Big South Conference play.”
McDevitt is impressed with Rhode Island.
“Rhode Island had a very athletic team that is well-coached by Danny Hurley,” commented McDevitt. “They will be a tough match-up for us on their home-court. We’re going to need to be at our best to have a chance at winning.”
Asheville is being led in scoring this season by freshman guard Andrew Rowsey with a 14.6 average. Senior center D.J. Cunningham has an 11.2 mark and tops the club in rebounding (9.2) and blocked shots (14).
In the Bulldogs loss to Norfolk State Tuesday night, Asheville placed five players in double figures for the first time this season. Sophomore forward Sam Hughes led the Dogs with 16 points, followed by Jaron Lane (15), David Robertson (13), Cunningham (13) and Rowsey (12). Jaleel Roberts just missed a double-double with nine points and nine rebounds.
This is just the Bulldogs second visit to the state of Rhode Island. Asheville played at Providence on Dec. 30, 1989 with the Friars rallying in the second half for a74-60 victory. The Dogs played Providence last year in the final game of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off with the Friars edging Asheville, 72-67.
The trip to Rhode Island marks the second straight season the Bulldogs have played in the New England area. Asheville edged Northeastern, 80-74 last December in Boston. The Dogs made it a memorable trip by upsetting St. John’s, 72-65 in Queens a few days later.
Monday’s game is the first meeting ever between Rhode Island and UNC Asheville.
The Bulldogs are off to a 1-4 start for the second straight year. Asheville recovered a year ago to go 16-16.
Asheville has not played a home game yet. They’ll play its first eight games away from Kimmel Arena before hosting Bluefield on Dec. 12.
Two starters from last season who were expected to start this year are still out. Senior guard Trent Meyer (9.7 ppg, 66 three-pointers made) is out with an ankle injury and has not played this year. He is expected back in a few weeks. Sophomore forward Will Weeks (13.0 ppg this year) played the first two games before suffering a knee injury. He will not play this week.
Freshman guard Andrew Rowsey was named Big South Freshman of the Week last Monday after scoring 24 points at Western Carolina (11-11) and 23 at College of Charleston (11-15). He has scored in double figures in four of the Bulldogs first five games.
Sophomore forward Sam Hughes has started the last three games in place of Will Weeks. He enjoyed a great two games at Duke last week. Hughes scored a career-high 16 points at Duke and then matched in the next night against Norfolk State along with a career-high eight rebounds.
Freshman guard David Robertson was a bright spot at Duke, as well. He tallied a season-high 12 points vs. the Blue Devils and then scored 13 the next night vs. Norfolk State.
Jaleel Roberts has come off the bench the past two games to score a season-high nine points in each contest. He grabbed a career-high nine rebounds against Norfolk State.
Senior center D.J. Cunningham has grabbed 599 career rebounds and blocked 194 shots entering the Rhode Island game. He is 10th all-time in career rebounds and second in blocked shots at Asheville.