|Bulldogs Race Past Seahawks, 75-61|
ASHEVILLE, North Carolina – UNC Asheville shot 62 percent in the first half to build a comfortable lead and rode a career night from senior forward Jaron Lane to a 75-61 verdict over visiting UNCW Saturday in a post-Christmas hoops clash at the Kimmel Center.
The surging Bulldogs won their fourth straight game to improve to 5-7 on the season and remained perfect at home with their third consecutive win in the mountains. UNCA also snapped an 11-game losing streak to UNCW that dated back to the 1975 season.
The Seahawks, making their first appearance in the 2-year-old arena, dropped their third in a row and stand 6-8 in all games.
The contest marked the return of UNCW coaches Buzz Peterson and Eddie Biedenbach to the Land of the Sky. Peterson was a high school standout at Asheville High School before enjoying a standout career at North Carolina and Biedenbach served as head coach of the Bulldogs for 16 seasons until joining Peterson’s staff as an assistant coach last summer.
“The first half hurt us today,” said Peterson, “that’s where we lost the game. There was a lot of emotions running high in the first half and I knew there would be. They threw the first punch and we were down 15 points and scrambling.”
The energetic Lane paced all scorers in the contest with 24 points on 7-of-13 from the floor and 8-of-12 at the free throw line. Freshman guard Andrew Rowsey added 15 points, senior post player D.J. Cunningham scored 13 with 16 rebounds and sophomore forward Sam Hughes chipped in 10 for the hot-shooting Bulldogs, who joined Iowa State and Marshall as the only teams to shoot 50 percent against the Seahawks with a 50 percent day.
Junior forward Cedrick Williams and junior guard Freddie Jackson had 15 points apiece for the Seahawks, who struggled most of the day from the floor and finished at 34.4 percent. Senior guard Tanner Milson gave the Seahawks three in double digits with 12 points.
Led by Cunningham’s inside play and a torrid start, UNCA broke away from the Seahawks midway through the first half to build a 45-29 cushion at intermission and increased the lead by 20 points early in the second half before UNCW made an expected run.
Lane and Rowsey kept the Bulldogs ahead after the break until a mental lapse almost cost the Bulldogs. With UNCA in front 64-50, Lane was whistled for a technical foul with 5:34 left to play and the Seahawks managed to chop the deficit to 64-52 when Milson and Jackson dropped in free throws.
But the Bulldogs answered with an 8-2 mini-run and pushed the margin back to 18 points, 72-54, on a steal and layup by Hughes with 2:46 on the clock. The Bulldogs then closed out the win to avenge a 67-59 season-opening loss last year in Wilmington.
“I thought UNC Asheville played really well today,” Peterson added. “They played with a lot of energy and a lot of emotion. We have to get our energy back on the defensive end and take pride at that end of the floor. They have tremendous guards who are young, but they don’t play like it.”
After Williams tied the score at 14-all with a spin move at 12:15, the Bulldogs used a 14-4 run to gain some breathing room. Lane kicked off the spurt with a basket on the baseline and Corey Littlejohn’s layup with 7:45 left gave the Bulldogs at 28-18 lead.
The Bulldogs, behind Lane, then finished the first half in a flourish. Still leading by nine points, UNCA reeled off 11 unanswered points, including four by Lane, and a monster dunk by Hughes extended the margin to 42-22, with 3:11 left in the first half.
UNCA then took a 45-29 lead into the break after Jackson’s layup with 30 seconds on the clock chipped the margin to 16 points. The Bulldogs wound up shooting 62.1 percent in the opening period on 18-of-29 field goals.
UNCW continues a stretch of four road outings in five games on New Year’s Eve with a 5 p.m. date at North Carolina. UNCA continues a four-game homestand on Tuesday with a 2 p.m. contest against Montreat.
GAME NOTES: It was the first meeting in Asheville between the two schools since 2004… Seahawks finished the season with a 3-1 record against the Big South Conference…Both teams had 17 turnovers…UNCA had 11 steals and 11 blocks in the contest…The Bulldogs scored 39 points in the paint…The Seahawks outscored the Bulldogs in the second half, 32-30…UNCW led, 12-11, at the 13:46 mark of the first half…All 13 players who dressed for UNCW saw action…The Seahawks used their eighth different starting lineup of the season…Williams did not start for the first time this year….The Seahawks had 21 offensive boards in the contest…Redshirt freshman CJ Gettys played for the first time this season.