With UNCA beating Western 59-57, the crowd enjoyed the game for about three minutes on Saturday night. While I would typically scold fans–something about being involved, creating the atmosphere–there wasn’t exactly much to rejoice over in this game.
The combined half-time score did not break 50. Both teams shot under 40% from the field, under 30% from three, and UNCA’s FT percentage squeaked passed Shaq’s all-time percentage.* Ironically, free throws were the only area the Bulldogs actually defeated the Catamounts. Thanks to the many fouls of Western Carolina, UNCA shot 20-for-35 from the stripe while WCU shot 11-for-12. Almost doubling the amount of their opponent’s FT’s-made is how the Bulldogs overcame WCU scoring two more baskets than them.
Sloppy play and slow defense prevailed for all. Even my own choice for player of the game, Alec Wnuk, oscillated between great and awful. For example, he worked hard to get to the basket and was often rewarded with foul shots, but got called twice for charging; his cold shooting (2-for-7), and sometimes poor shot selection, was offset by seeming to be the only Bulldog who could rebound.
Since the frustrations of the first half brought me near death, I’ll skip right to the excitement of second half. The Bulldogs found themselves with the lead 58-56 with 24.5 seconds remaining. Coming out of a timeout, UNCA’s possession ended with a bad shot from Teague. Despite playing great defense, UNCA fouled Western with 3 seconds to go. WCU’s Pughsley easily made the first, before missing the second and seeing the ball fall into the hands of Alec Wnuk. A quick foul by the Catamounts sent Wnuk to the line where he would make only one, 59-57. Western’s last second heave went up, at which point I remembered the home game against Jacksonville State, where a last second tip-in broke the heart of every Bulldog fan packed into Kimmel. Thankfully, this close shot clanked off the iron declaring UNC-Asheville the winner of the 50th meeting of the mountain rivalry.
Alec Wnuk. Right place, right time. Right effort, right choice.
Ahmad Thomas. Two critical steals, seven rebounds, 3-for-3 from 3, and 20 points. The only real downside from the stat line was 1-for-4 from the line.
Shout out to the Women, who defeated USC-Upstate earlier on Saturday.
Unfortunately, I will miss Monday’s game against UNCG. However, I hope the Asheville faithful can come out Thursday to Hickory Tavern at Biltmore Park to watch the Bulldogs take on Ohio State, who destroyed WCU earlier this year.
*For non-NBA fans, Shaquille O’Neal, despite being a great player, is also known for being a terrible free throw shooter, averaging about 53% for his career.