With exactly what you want from an exhibition game, UNC-Asheville dominated Montreat College 101-59, Saturday (11/5) night at Kimmel Arena.
The pregame included everything nice: a sweet windmill dunk from Ahmad Thomas in warm-ups, noticing Montreat’s coach is somewhere in his early twenties, and a head referree I can only describe as Squiggy from Laverne and Shirley (I realize that’s a reach for some people reading this blog, but, you know – Google it). The familiar starting lineup of four guards (Robertson, Vannatta, Thomas, Teague) and Will Weeks matched up favorably with Montreat’s similarly sized team.
Lineup changes were frequent. In my opinion, 11 of the 16 players listed on the UNCA program roster could easily be in the rotation. Most interestingly, Coach McDevitt varied the lineups with a few two-forward combinations. You read that correctly. With this team, the bulldogs were able to play two guys 6’6″ or taller often.
The first half met expectations. UNCA played a great transition game coupled with some silly fouls and turnovers and the man defense forced Montreat to the perimeter and into their own turnovers. The bulldogs finished the half strong 47-26 before starting the second half poorly. How poorly? Around the 17 minute mark, the entire 1st team subbed in for the 2nd team. A few more minutes was all it took for the bulldogs to firmly establish themselves again. From that point forward, the only thing that felt weird was the Cheer and Dance team dancing to “Cheeseburger in Paradise” (Some songs aren’t meant to be danced to.)
Kevin Vannatta is Mr. Effort. As fans, this is no surprise, but Vannatta is still diving for balls, pushing the fastbreak, and giving every drop of sweat to the game.
Alec Wnuk and Malik Smith. Last year didn’t feature Wnuk often and this is Malik Smith’s first year. However, if their play Saturday night foreshadows the season, we’ll be seeing some great contributions from these two.
Jonathan Baehre will destroy. I know it’s early. I know I’ve now seen Baehre play in one game, an exhibition game at that. But I’m doing it, I’m putting myself on the line: Jonathan Baehre will make the conference freshman team. That will probably not happen because of minutes, but he’ll be worthy even if he doesn’t. His defensive play and jump shot make him an incredible post player.
Raekwon Miller’s handle. He showed off skills I don’t remember seeing from him. It will be interesting seeing how Coach McDevitt uses him moving forward.
Foul Trouble. The game wasn’t all roses. With 10 minutes remaining in the second half, UNCA had 10 fouls. Playing that deep roster didn’t put any individual into foul trouble, but I will be concerned if this pattern continues.
Next Game: VCU, this Friday at 7pm. I think the only way to catch this game will be 570 AM in Asheville. UNCA won’t return home until Nov. 20 against Siena.