The UNC Asheville men’s basketball team started the game against mountain rival Western Carolina University behind the eight-ball. They were short-handed, missing their sixth and seventh men (Jaron Lane and Jon Nwannunu), and fell behind early. The Catamounts placed four players in double figures, and came away with a 86-67 win in Cullowhee.
Both teams were coming off an eight-day break, and only Western showed it was ready to play. At the Ramsey Center, WCU (7-6) built a 15 point lead at the half (40-25) and held off several Asheville comebacks in the second half as the Bulldogs (6-6) lost a second consecutive game.
Western leads the rivalry series 24-19 overall.
Asheville had trouble getting together, altering their starting lineup as J.P. Primm and Chris Stephenson, both of whom had started every game this season, were on the bench at the start of each half for disciplinary reasons due to returning late from the holiday break. In their places, Asheville started Jeremy Harn and Keith Hornsby for the first time all season.
Matt Dickey (left) once again lead Asheville with a season-high 23 points. Jeremy Atkinson added 16 points and had six rebounds. Chris Stephenson had a double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
“We didn’t play very well tonight,” stated Asheville coach Eddie Biedenbach. “We made some runs in the second half, but you can’t expect to come back against a good team like Western Carolina when you give them a 15-point lead. Our guys didn’t do a good job guarding the three-point line and Western made us pay for it. We’re going to have to play better than we did tonight.
“Guys came back (from Christmas break) and didn’t get ready to play,” a disappointed Biedenbach stated. “Nothing comes without hard work. We gave them shots all night. Teams are going to shoot the ball like that when you don’t play defense.”
Western shot .544 (31-of-57) from the field and .529 (9-of-17) from beyond the arc. Harouna Mutombo led the Cats with 18 points and 13 rebounds, and Brandon Boggs added 17 points.
Asheville shot just .386 (22-of-57) from the field and .188 (3-of-16) from the three-point line.
“We got a lot of mileage (and 27 points) out of our bench tonight,” said WCU coach Larry Hunter. “We rebounded well (42-33 advantage) and shot the ball well, and those were the keys. There was a lot of inconsistency at the start and it was hard for either team to get into a flow, but I feel like we played pretty well.”
The Bulldogs got in trouble midway through the first half when WCU went on a 21-4 run to grab a 38-21 lead. Asheville made several comeback attempts in the second half, getting as close as eight points on three occasions, but the Cats used a late 7-0 run to clinch the win.
Asheville plays at Big South Conference rival Winthrop on New Year’s Eve, as league play resumes.
We’ve seen it before…a team gets up 11 in the first half and the other team comes back to make it a close game. Then, in the second half, a 10 point lead evaporates. Usually, UNC Asheville is the one trailing, but Tuesday night at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, TN, the Tennessee Volunteers were the team rallying for a 72-68 win.
Asheville (6-5) was led by a season-high 25 points from Tennessee-native J.P. Primm. Jeremy Atkinson had 15 points and Chris Stephenson added 10. Matt Dickey was held to a season-low seven points.
Leading by double digits is something the Bulldogs are not used to in a guarantee game. Second-chance points and three-point shooting by the Vols led to the comeback. They had an 18-6 advantage on second-chance points.
“We played hard and battled but didn’t guard the three-point line a couple of times and it cost us,” stated Asheville coach Eddie Biedenbach. “Tennessee did a great job defensively the whole game. We did a solid job scoring 68 points.
“This is a tough one to take,” added Biedenbach. “We outplayed Tennessee in a lot of areas but in the end we didn’t play well enough to get a win. Hopefully, we learn from this game and become a better team.”
Asheville led for all but the first thirty seconds of the first half, building an 11-point lead at 29-18. Jon Nwannunu scored eight points in the first half, shooting 3-for-4 from the field and had four rebounds.
UT rallied late in the first half, using three-point shots to eat into the Bulldogs lead. The Dogs ended up leading 35-32 at the half thanks to an Atkinson tip-in as the buzzer sounded.
This was the kind of game Asheville should have won…it certainly was a far cry from the 75-point loss they absorbed two seasons ago in Knoxville, and would have been a great win for the program.
They are now off for eight days before playing at Western Carolina on Dec. 28, then it’s onto Big South Conference play.
Back from Exam Week, the UNC Asheville Bulldogs breezed to a 109-61 win over visiting MontreatCollege Thursday night at Kimmel Arena. The rout was highlighted by having five players in double figures as Asheville won it’s fourth straight game.
The Dogs (6-4) were led by senior forward Chris Stephenson’s 19 points and six rebounds. He had an outstanding game running the floor and taking charge, as he hit 9-of-10 shots from the field. Senior Matt Dickey had 16 points, going 6-for-6 from the field with seven assists. Juniors Jeremy Atkinson and Jaron Lane each added 14 points.
Senior J.P. Primm scored 13 points, had six assists and three steals. He picked up his 200th steal in the game and now has 202 in his career. His six assists gave him 511 career assists. He is just the third player in Big South Conference history to have more than 500 assists and 200 steals.
“It’s good to get a win after exams, and I thought we played pretty well tonight,” stated UNC Asheville coach Eddie Biedenbach. “Montreat has given us fits in the past and has some good three-point shooters. We did a nice job offensively moving the ball, getting good shots and getting everyone involved with the offense.”
The Dogs ran the floor well, created space and made some outstanding passes. They hit their first eight shots of the game and got off to a commanding 18-4 lead in the first four minutes of the game. Five different players scored during the opening minutes.
The lead grew to 49-27 at the half, and coming out of the break, Asheville went on a 22-4 run to put the game away, sprinting to a 69-31 lead. Stephenson had two thunderous dunks during that run, and was seen smiling for the entire game…something Asheville fans have been missing.
Asheville outscored Montreat 75-26 in the paint and had a 25-6 fast-break points advantage. Every Asheville player on their 15-man roster played, and it was good to see freshmen Corey Littlejohn, Keith Hornsby and Jaleel Roberts back in action. Also seeing action were Josh Seligson, MadisonDavis, Chudier Pal, Trent Meyer and Jeremy Harn. The future looks good for the Bulldogs, but, with league games beginning in January, their playing time could be limited.
Asheville travels to Knoxville, TN next Tuesday for a game against the Tennessee Volunteers. The Vols are on a losting streak, having just lost at the College of Charleston on Wednesday night and previously to Austin Peay. “They will be a bit more focused than I would like because of those losses,” Biedenbach said. But, should Asheville come out and play the type of game they can play, this trip certainly won’t be like the one two seasons ago when UT beat Asheville by 75 points.
UNC Asheville coach Eddie Biedenbach had won 249 games in his coaching career before this one. But he has not had too many of them go the way Sunday’s game went. Out-played for 36-1/2 minutes by a scrappy USC Upstate team from the Atlantic Sun Conference, the UNC Asheville Bulldogs (5-4) looked like they went into a phone booth and came out dressed as Superman.
Trailing 81-72 with 3:38 left in the game, the Dogs scored the final 16 points of the game, and came away with an 88-81 win, Biedenbach’s 250th. Asheville’s rally was ignited by Jeremy Atkinson’s old-fashioned three-point play as the lead was cut to just six. After Upstate missed a shot, Matt Dickey did what he does best – hit a clutch three-point shot from way downtown – to cut the lead to 81-78. Dickey then stole the inbounds pass, fed Jaron Lane and number 5 scored on a lay-up to bring the Bulldogs to within a point at the 2:46 mark.
“We were fortunate,” coach Biedenbach stated after the contest. “USC Upstate out-played us for most of the game, but we hung in there and found a way to win at the end. Our press really worked well and got us some easy baskets.”
The coach, speaking on the radio interview following the game, said this game and Thursday night’s contest at Gardner-Webb were games the Bulldogs would not have won last year. But, senior leadership and outstanding team effort has changed things. Playing Connecticut and the College of Charleston in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, plus having played N.C. State and UNC earlier has toughened this team up.
Asheville continued to play hard defense, forcing turnovers leading to more points. This was one game where the home team did not fall behind by double digits early, but it was instead a back-and-forth game until midway through the second half. The Spartans took charge of the game at that time, scoring eight straight points to take a 75-67 lead. Four different Spartan players scored during the run. They continued to play very tough, and eventually built that lead to 81-72 before Asheville began its improbable comeback.
Matt Dickey again led Asheville with 22 points, Chris Stephenson scored 20 and Jeremy Atkinson chipped in 18. Stephenson had 9 rebounds and Atkinson had 8 to lead the Bulldogs.
Asheville shot a season-high .627 from the field (32-of-51) while the Spartans shot just .412 (28-of-68).
I will continue to say this about the 2011-12 UNC Asheville Bulldogs…they are a very tough team. While undersized as a team, individual players like Jeremy Atkinson and Chris Stephenson are making things difficult for opponents. Quinard Jackson has shown inside toughness as well. This team fears no opponent and does not get down when things don’t go as planned. That, my friends, is the mark of a veteran team…one that will be giving Big South Conference foes a battle every night.
The Bulldogs are now off for exams, and will play next on Dec. 15 when they host neighboring NAIA foe Montreat at Kimmel Arena at 7:00 p.m.
Championship weekend was spectacular…if you like lots of scoring. And, if you don’t, you’ll probably get your wish when LSU and Alabama meet in the BCS title game on January 9, 2012. But this weekend showcased some great football…HUGE upset in C-USA, as previously undefeated Houston was crushed by Southern Mississippi…and favored teams not covering the spread, but doing what they were supposed to do…win. NOTE: This was written BEFORE THE BCS final standings were announced…so, IF somehow Oklahoma State leaps over Alabama, just replace Bama with Cowboys where necessary (ha!).
Here are the 5 Things I Learned About College Football This Weekend:
1. Oklahoma State deserves a shot at No. 1 LSU in the BCS Championship Game. Sure, say what you will, but they destroyed the No. 10 team in the nation on Saturday night in Bedlam! A 44-10 crushing defeat of their in-state rivals, Oklahoma, (and yes, I know OU was a bit shorthanded), told me the Pokes should be not only in the conversation, but in the game. The offense we knew about…and their defense, while still giving up chunks of yardage, is good enough to keep the score down. This team only lost one game, on that ill-fated night at Iowa State…and maybe, just maybe, that last-second field goal WAS good…so…The Cowboys are the Big 12 champs, and I would love to see them play for the national title.
2. LSU beat the hottest team in the nation…like a drum.Tyrann Mathieu knows when to turn things around…and he certainly provided the spark necessary for the BayouBengals when they were trailing Georgia 10-0 down in Atlanta Saturday night. The Bulldogs were beginning to think they were headed to the Sugar Bowl…but they should know better. LSU generally took things over from that point on. Having gained 36 feet (yes, FEET) in the first half, the girl who won the $100,000 Dr. Pepper scholarship challenge by throwing footballs into a giant can of soda looked like she could run LSU’s offense better than any of the Tigers’ quarterbacks. But alas, she was not needed. The Tigers picked up 202 yards rushing in the second half and looked like pros out there. Mathieu’s video-game quality punt return was absolutely one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. My wife and I were in a restaurant bar waiting for our table…and I can tell you EVERYONE in the bar watching just gasped…EVERYONE. Yeah, it was amazing.
3. Wisconsin and Michigan State played the best game of the weekend. No, Wisconsin did not blow Sparty out like some people (thank you…) predicted. But, I know many people who stopped watching this one when it was 21-7 in the Badgers’ favor. I was not one of them because I remembered how the Spartans put up 23 in the second quarter in the first game…I really didn’t think they would do it again. I was correct…they only put up 22. What an exciting game. Russell Wilson’s late long distance pass that eerily looked like the Spartans’ Hail Mary pass in the first game led Wisconsin to the win. But, as I did predict, Montee Ball had a monster game. 4 touchdowns (I said he’d get two or three), 27 carries for 137 yards, and a huge opening quarter to set things up. This game had everything…Michigan State, NOT Michigan, should certainly be considered for a BCS bid…that is if TCU somehow doesn’t get an at-large bid. State played a great game…as did Wisconsin. Who knew the Big Ten would be this exciting. The days of three yards and a cloud of dust are as far removed from these two teams as possible…yet the ground game is a significant part of their offenses. State QB Kirk Cousins makes good decisions and will be a good NFL quarterback. Wilson is a born leader and his career options still include baseball…so stay tuned. Wisconsin vs. Oregon in the Rose Bowl will be the best of the non-BCS title game bowls. Size vs. speed. Can’t wait for that one. And I do hope somehow State can get to the Sugar Bowl…but realistically, it’ll be a lower bowl game…probably in Florida.
4. UCLA played about as well as they could have played…and were still crushed by Oregon. No surprise here, but the 31-point underdogs played their hearts out for outgoing coach Rick Neuheisel. They just simply did not have enough athletes to play with Oregon. And the 35 degree weather was something the Bruins certainly were not used to. Now, will this 6-7 team go to a bowl? They did get an NCAA waiver, so I suppose they will. As for the Ducks, those green tops and black pants made every one of them look skinny and small…and that was against UCLA. Wait til they see the Wisconsin farm boys lining up against them in the Rose Bowl. The Wisconsin front-four out-weighs the Packers’ line. I really wish there was going to be a playoff this year. There are eight teams (LSU, Oklahoma State, Alabama, Stanford, Oregon, Wisconsin, Boise State and yes, I would definitely put Michigan State in here) that would make for some compelling viewing! Even the top four in a playoff would be great.
5. The season is over. Seriously, yes Army-Navy is next week, and that’s always a good game to watch, but other than watching YOUR team in a bowl (if they got there), are there any compelling games coming up…that will mean anything? No. The Rose Bowl match-up will be nice to watch, but, like last year, I just won’t be spending much time watching Boise State beat up someone in the MAACO Bowl. And the Belk Bowl – and the others – who cares? We will just have to wait for No. 1 vs. No. 2 on January 9…Over a month from today…for the final game of the season.
As always, it was fun trying to give you some insight into college football. While not all my picks were right (I went 40-25 on my Top Five Games on the season using actual point spreads this year for the first time instead of just saying one team will win), I learned that college football is exciting, competitive and fun. The best night of the season was when I headed to my local sports bar/restaurant and watched LSU and Alabama and several other games with hundreds of die-hard fans…many of whom were wearing their college colors. But, last night, in the quiet of my own home, watching Michigan State and Wisconsin, was as good as it gets.
I hope you enjoy Bowl Season…and have a great holiday. Spend some time with your family…I know I will be doing that. Get to know them after spending so much time from the end of August until last night watching college football! Thanks for reading and thanks for your comments!
Here’s the UNC Asheville game plan…or so it seems…
1. Get down early
2 Make a spirited comeback
3. Let your veteran players take over and WIN
If so, mission accomplished last night. But seriously, the UNC Asheville Bulldogs played hard and fought back from a 13-point deficit early in last night’s game at Gardner-Webb to come away with a hard-fought 66-60 victory. With eight minutes played, and down 14-1, Asheville (4-4, 1-0 BSC) showed why they are the favorites to win the Big South Conference. They were able to cut that Runnin’ Bulldogs (yes, it is confusing…but remember, the SEC has THREE teams nicknamed “Tigers”) lead to just five points at halftime, 26-21.
Jaron Lane led Asheville with 15 points, followed by Matt Dickey (13), J.P. Primm (12), Chris Stephenson and Jeremy Atkinson (9 each) and Quinard Jackson’s 8 points. Stephenson had a game-high 12 rebounds as well.
Asheville trailed much of the game, but went on an 8-0 run midway through the second half to take the lead for good.
“We knew it would be a battle and it was from start to finish,” Asheville coach Eddie Biedenbach said after the game. “Gardner-Webb played so hard but we did a good job matching their intensity and we found a way to win the game.
“We still made some bad decisions late in the game that let them get back into the game, but we hit enough free throws to hold on,” he added. “Our guys have to understand it’s going to be a war every time we play someone in the conference. I like the fact that we didn’t panic when we got down 14-1 and kept playing good defense and grinded things out.”
The win gave Biedenbach a 15-1 record in Big South Conference opening games, and the Bulldogs have now won seven straight conference openers.
In the second half, Asheville shot 52.4% from the field to offset a poor start (8-of-22 – 36.4%) to the game. In the last few minutes of the game, in an effort to make up a deficit, Gardner-Webb began to foul…a lot. Down the stretch, Asheville took over at the free throw line, hitting 21-of-30 in the second half…and were 25-of-37 for the game. Thank you!
What impressed me, sitting at center court, was exactly what Coach Biedenbach said. There was no panic in this veteran team. Not once did I see a player get frustrated because they were down by so many points so early in the game. The Bulldogs played hard, tough defense and came away with a very important victory.
UNC Asheville plays this Sunday at Kimmel Arena against USC Upstate in a non-league match-up that tips off at 2:00 p.m. Locally, it will be televised by WMYA-TV.
League championships are up for grabs starting tonight in Eugene, OR, as UCLA visits heavily-favored Oregon (-31). I don’t see a lot of support for the underdogs this weekend…talking to colleagues around the country, it looks like the favorites will win each of the five games I will highlight. Whether or not they will cover…that’s another story.
Here are the 5 Top College Football Games to Watch This Week:
PAC-12 CHAMPIONSHIP: UCLA at Oregon (8:00 p.m.) – Seriously…what do I need to say about a team that has dominated nearly every game except for their opener? Oregon has speed and athletes. UCLA has a lame-duck coach, a .500 record, and are lucky enough to be in the Pac-12 South division…a collection of rag-tag teams (except for USC which is on probation) that can’t beat Betty White. 31 points is a lot (4 TD’s and a FG) but unless Chip Kelly decides to rest his starters very early, Oregon wins going away.
SEC CHAMPIONSHIP: LSU VS. Georgia (4:00 p.m.) – One of the hottest teams in the country (the Bulldogs) going up against the nation’s No. 1 team (LSU) in a virtual home game for Georgia. While LSU’s offense is not terrific, their defense is…and that’s how they will win this game. Nothing will deter Les Miles from winning the SEC title, although Georgia will hang tough with the Bayou Bengals for a while. A ten-game win streak and the nation’s number five defense adds to their credibility. However, better athletes win out…and LSU has ’em! 12 of the 13 SEC title games has been decided by 10 or more points. Unless Georgia’s QB Andy Murray becomes Andrew Luck, that trend continues. LSU wins by two touchdowns…late!
BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP: Wisconsin vs. Michigan State (8:00 p.m.) – Indianapolis has been waiting to see some good football since…well, the last time Peyton Manning threw a pass in the dome…but Saturday night should be must-see action for any Hoosier within ticket-buying range. These two teams had a tough game in East Lansing earlier this season. I have been on Wisconsin for two years now, and with the addition of Russell Wilson, predicted they would win the Big Ten title back in August. I don’t see another game like their earlier one, however. In that game, played AT MSU, so many strange things happened…blocked kicks, interceptions, Montee Ball left the game early due to injury…and still, it took a last-second Hail Mary pass for Sparty to win…Not this time. Wisconsin has a huge front line, opening holes for Ball and anyone else who wants to run. Wilson will have a great game indoors where he doesn’t have to worry about the elements. Payback time…Wisconsin (-9-1/2) wins BIG and will play Oregon in what should be an entertaining Rose Bowl on Jan. 2!
ACC CHAMPIONSHIP: Virginia Tech vs. Clemson (8:00 p.m.) – Another rematch…and another game in which a payback will occur. Clemson gained a lot of credibility (at least for me) when they went into Blacksburg earlier this season and hammered Tech…a real beat-down…but then, they reverted to the Same Old Clemson we’ve come to love and enjoy. They enter this game on a down note (1-3 in their last four games) and come off a bad loss to in-state rival, South Carolina. All Va. Tech has done since that 23-3 loss to Clemson is win seven in a row…including a 38-0 victory over Virginia last week in Charlottesville…a game they had to win to get to the championship game Saturday night in Charlotte. If you think they are going to lose to Clemson for a second time, you are mistaken. Take Virginia Tech (-7) and ride this wave to the Orange Bowl.
BEDLAM: Oklahoma at Oklahoma State (8:00 p.m.) – In what could have been one of the best, most-exciting and most important games of the season, these two bitter rivals meet in Stillwater…but unfortunately, due to three combined losses (two on the same weekend just two weeks ago), this game will just determine which team travels out to the Fiesta Bowl. Each team has terrific offenses…and Oklahoma has the better defense. Every time I have picked a team to cover against Oklahoma State (usually by double digits), Brandon Weeden comes out throwing to Justin Blackmon for about 500 yards and they put up 50 points or so. This time, I will pick OSU (-3) to win the game, and I think this will be the best game of the weekend.
I’ll be back next week with my review of the weekend!