ASHEVILLE, N.C. - The UNC Asheville women's basketball team begins a new era on Saturday when the Bulldogs welcome Western Carolina to Kimmel Arena starting at 4:30 p.m. Saturday's game will be televised locally by WMYA-TV (Channel 40).
The game will also be video-streamed at can be seen under the multimedia link at uncabulldogs.com.
The Bulldogs game with the Catamounts is part of the Asheville Collegiate Invitational doubleheader between teams from the Southern Conference and Big South. The first game is between Charleston Southern and UNC Greensboro and begins at 2 p.m. Tickets can be bought on-line at www.uncabulldogs.com or by calling 828-258-7900.
Brenda Mock Kirkpatrick is Asheville's new head coach after serving as an assistant at the University of Florida for the past five years. The former Tuscola standout is anxious to rebuild the Bulldog program after last year's 7-23 season. Kirkpatrick is excited about the start of the season.
"We're all excited, and I know the players really want to play well tomorrow against Western Carolina," declared Kirkpatrick. We've really made a lot of progress from the start of the school year until now. You wouldn't mind a little more time to prepare but Saturday should be a great game. It's exciting the game is going to be on TV, and it's our first game against Western Carolina at Kimmel Arena."
The Bulldogs expect a tough game from the Catamounts on Saturday. WCU has won its last three meetings against Asheville, including a frustrating 65-53 defeat a year ago in Cullowhee. The Bulldogs led 31-20 late in the first half and trailed by just two late in the game but went ice cold down the stretch. The Lady Cats finished with a 14-17 overall record last but won seven of the last nine games.
"Western Carolina is a good team," explained Kirkpatrick. "They're well-coached and have a lot of experience returning. Western played really well down the stretch a year ago. I'm sure they want to build on that momentum at the start of this season."
The Bulldogs are anxious to build their own momentum to start the Kirkpatrick era.
"Our players want to make a statement in this game," stated Kirkpatrick. "They want everyone to know that they're going to be a better team this season. We'll see what happens."
Asheville returns four starters from last year's club, including Big South Freshman of the Year and leading scorer Shonese Jones. The former Brevard HS standout averaged 15.6 points per game last season and also knocked down 53 three-pointers. She led the team in steals with 40.
Also back is senior guard Grace Blaylock. She was hurt for part of last season but should be ready to go on Saturday. Blaylock knocked down 46 three-pointers last season and set a single-game record with seven.
Up front, the Bulldogs bring back senior center Kelli Riles. She was 12th nationally in rebounding last season with a 10.6 per game mark. Riles set a Big South single-game record with 28 rebounds against USC Upstate last season. Riles averaged 8.3 points per game and shot .503 from the field.
Sophomore Leah Wormack made the Big South All-Freshman team last season and averaged 10.6 points per game. Senior Gentry Manley also returns. Manley is a former walk-on who gives the Bulldogs some real toughness inside. She averaged 5.8 points and 3.8 rebounds per game last year.
- 1. Western Carolina holds a 34-12 series advantage and has won the last three meetings.
- 2. First-year head coach Brenda Mock Kirkpatrick has some Western Carolina ties. Her sister Angel was a volleyball player and head coach for the Catamount program.
- 3. UNC Asheville Director of Athletics Janet R. Cone was once the head coach of WCU's women's basketball program. Cone went 4-2 against the Bulldogs during her tenure in Cullowhee from 1990-93.
- 4. Kelli Riles led the nation in rebounding for the first part of last season.
- 5. A first-year UNC Asheville women's coach has not its first game since Lalon Jones won her first game in the opening game of the 1989-90 season as the Bulldogs beat Tusculum, 84-76.
- 6. The Bulldogs have won their last two season openers as Asheville held off Winston-Salem State a year ago at Kimmel Arena, 83-74.
- 7. Asheville looks to snap a 12-game losing streak in today's game as the Bulldogs lost their final 12 games of the season a year ago.
- 8. The Bulldogs went 7-8 in Kimmel Arena a year ago.