ASHEVILLE, N.C. – The UNC Asheville men’s basketball team finishes the regular season Saturday afternoon with a crucial Big South Conference battle against Gardner-Webb at Kimmel Arena starting at 4:30 p.m.
Saturday’s game can be heard locally on WWNC Radio (570-AM) starting with the pre-game show at 4 p.m. Fans can also watch the game on ESPN3.
Both teams are fighting for a bye in next week’s Big South Conference championship at Coastal Carolina. The top two teams from each division get a bye. Asheville and Gardner-Webb are among four teams competing for a first or second place finish.
The Bulldogs (15-14, 9-6 BSC) are tied for third place in the South Division with Winthrop after a heartbreaking 107-100 overtime loss to the Eagles on the road Wednesday night. GWU (17-12, 10-5) is tied for first place in the South with Coastal Carolina.
An Asheville win and the Bulldogs will finish in at least second place in the South and have that coveted bye. The Blue & White can even finish first if Charleston Southern can upset Coastal Carolina on Saturday.
The Runnin’ Bulldogs also need to win to stay in either first or second place. They’ll take first outright with a win over Asheville and a Coastal loss.
“Wednesday was a tough loss but Saturday is a new day,” commented Bulldog coach Nick McDevitt. “We’ve done a great job bouncing back from losses and injuries all year long, and I’m confident we’ll be ready to go against Gardner-Webb.
“We control our own destiny. That’s all you can ask for when the season starts,” added McDevitt. “If we can the job done on Saturday, then we’ll have earned a bye into the tournament next week.”
The first-year coach expects a tough game from the Runnin’ Bulldogs. Asheville edged Gardner-Webb back on Jan. 8, 81-77.
“Gardner-Webb is an outstanding defensive team. They’re well-coached and 6-1 on the road in league games,” commented McDevitt. “We’ll need to be at our absolute best to have a chance at winning on Saturday.”
Prior to Saturday’s game, the school will honor fifth-year seniors Jaron Lane and D.J. Cunningham as the duo will play their final home game at Kimmel Arena.
UNC Asheville is 14-7 after starting the season 1-7.
The Bulldogs have posted a 36-8 record at Kimmel Arena. In Big South Conference games, Asheville has a 23-4 record against BSC opponents at Kimmel. However, one of those losses was to Gardner-Webb and that occurred last season when the Runnin’ Bulldogs rallied for a 67-65 win.
Freshman guard Andrew Rowsey has scored in double figures in 25 straight games. He is the Big South’s leading scorer with a 20.2 average. Rowsey’s 20.2 scoring mark is the second highest among freshman nationally. He has scored 30 or more points in five different games this season, the first time in school history that’s occurred in a season.
UNC Asheville has scored 100 points in back-to-back games for the first time since the 1970-71 season.
UNC Asheville says good-bye today to fifth-year seniors’ Jaron Lane and D.J. Cunningham. Lane and Cunningham have battled through injuries during their career but saved their best basketball for their senior seasons. Jaron Lane is Asheville’s second leading scorer this year with a 15.6 average and 18.5 mark in league action. He has quietly been moving up the school’s career scoring list as he enters today’s game with 1,222 points and is 18th place. His first basket today will put him into 17th place in front of Tom Haus (1,223). D.J. Cunningham leads the Big South Conference in rebounding (9.3) and blocked shots (3.5). He is third on the team in scoring with an 11.0 average and tops the club in field goal shooting at 55 percent (105-of-191). Two weeks ago, D.J. became the school’s all-time career leader in blocked shots and he has 264 career blocks. He is also the school’s all-time Division I leader in rebounds and fourth overall with 775 rebounds. D.J. is just the second player in Big South history to record more than 700 rebounds and 200 blocked shots.
Jaron Lane has scored 20 or more points in four consecutive games.
The Bulldogs lead the Big South in free throw percentage at .739.