You would think a battle for Ohio would include two Ohio teams, but you would be wrong. Compared to Ohio State’s seven native Ohioans, UNC Asheville actually boasts four: Malik Smith, Drew Rackley, MaCio Teague, and Kevin Vannatta. All of which got minutes in the nail-gnawer against OSU. While the Bulldogs played every ounce of effort, fought for position, forced turnovers, and clawed back into place to win, UNCA just couldn’t quite grab the “W” in the loss to Ohio State, 79-77.
The very first thing I notice about Power 5 teams compared to UNCA is almost always size. The Buckeyes possessed height and length that the Bulldogs had trouble downplaying. OSU scored 48 points in the paint, almost double UNCA. The Buckeyes also outrebounded Asheville by 11. However, Asheville made up for that height by raining from three all night. Finishing just shy of 50%, the Bulldogs made more threes than OSU attempted. Raekwon Miller started the trend before Vannatta, Robertson, Teague, and even Wnuk, whose threes were critical, contributed to the total.
Foul trouble for UNC Asheville began quickly. With roughly 10:30 remaining in the first half, OSU started the bonus. When the game finished, no starter had fewer than three fouls, with Kevin Vannatta fouling out and Alec Wnuk coming off the bench to contribute four fouls.
After two OSU technicals (thanks for Teague for hitting those FT’s) and a Thomas steal, Kevin Vannatta made a fantastic play to draw a foul shooting a three, with the score 75-71. Unfortunately, Vannatta, a near 70% FT shooter, missed the first two, before making the third. Those were the only free throws Vannatta shot all night. After Ohio State scored, 77-72, Wnuk found a lane and drove to the basket before being blocked by a player, forcing the ball to clank the rim rather than roll over it. Now, being a referree is an incredibly difficult job, so when I say this, I am fully aware of gray area: Wnuk was fouled. Having watched the play live and replaying the clip at home, the defender’s hand made contact with Wnuk’s hand. Unfortunately, the call (or lack thereof) didn’t go our way. Although Wnuk drilled a second three, his third for the season, with 5.2 seconds left and Teague another basket before OSU inbounded and the buzzer sounded, the effort would not be enough for victory.
However, by no means should the Bulldogs hang their heads. OSU came in favored by 14 and survived Asheville, rather than defeated them. Asheville’s turnovers stayed low and shooting percentage kept fairly high. While the non-conference season ends with back-to-back losses, I know UNCA will be prepared for conference play.
Raekwon Miller. The first half belonged to Raekwon.
Alec Wnuk. “No, don’t take the three…YEAH! He hit the three!” He’s shooting 37.5% from distance for the season, but on eight attempts. Overall, still not something I necessarily encourage, but Wnuk’s threes have made a lot of news this season.
MaCio Teague. A team high 23 points, 5 assists, 1 steal, and only 1 turnover.
Quick shoutout to the Alumni office for putting together a watch party for this game. I had a lot of fun catching up, meeting folks, and seeing the game with a loyal crowd.
With Christmas around the corner, I will not be able to attend the conference matchup at home, but I have every intention of seeing the game against High Point on January 7th in Kimmel Arena. See you there!