The Bulldogs melted every inch of snow in Asheville today with the heat from their win over High Point, 88-58. With the exception of eight seconds when the score was 0-0, the Bulldogs led the entire game. The women, facing Longwood, had the same experience in Virginia winning 80-53, leading all, but the first 11 seconds. Unfortunately, I was unable to catch the women’s broadcast as the games were played simultaneously.
Threes rained all day from Robertson, hitting 5-of-9, Miller, 4-for-4, and Teague, 3-for-3. The halftime score of 50-25 says it all. Similarly, the women’s halftime score was 40-21.
So instead of focusing on today’s games, let’s catch-up.
During the holiday stretch, Asheville experienced two gut-wrenching games. The first conference matchups against Radford and Gardner-Webb went into overtime. After losing to Radford in OT, I was convinced the Bulldogs were doomed for a repeat after Gardner-Webb hit a game-tying basket to send it into extra time. However, Asheville stayed strong and fought for a five-point victory. Thankfully, the Bulldogs followed the “W” up with a decisive win over Liberty, which led into their hot shooting today.
Speaking of hot shooting, since conference play began, David Robertson has been seeing the basket as a wide-open barn door: 20-of-34 from long range. That’s 58.8% from three. Watching him shoot today, I thought Robertson to be the most confident shooter in the world. I love that Robertson has found a way to get past the early season struggles and find his place.
With the win today, UNCA sits tied for first with Longwood, Winthrop, Liberty, and Radford…so almost everyone. The schedules will have to run their course before a more dominant team emerges. However, Longwood, Liberty, and Radford have overall records under .500, so I will focus on preseason favorite Winthrop. (Although Liberty ranked second, ahead of UNCA too, the non-conference schedule Liberty played doesn’t compare to those below.)
Winthrop and UNC-Asheville hold similar records: 11-4 and 11-6, respectively; a single conference loss to Radford (UNCA played away, Winthrop at home); and a win over Furman (UNCA played away, Winthrop at home). Whereas the Bulldogs claim a win over Siena, a nail-biting loss to Ohio State, and big loss to Kansas, Winthrop holds wins at Saint Louis and Illinois and losses to Dayton and Florida State. Based on the schedule, I rank these two teams evenly.
The ladies have been hurting for the win I’m happy to say they got today against Longwood. The incredible run of victories in the nonconference schedule ended in a four game slide starting with Appalachian State, through the Fordham Classic, and into the first conference matchup against Campbell. The Bulldogs came close to beating Campbell a few times, but, despite K.J. Weaver’s double-double effort, they never closed the deal.
In the conference, Radford and Campbell are tied atop the standings; both undefeated in conference, even holding the same overall record at 10-3. In the preseason, Radford was picked behind UNCA, the favorite, while Campbell was picked 8th. Campbell’s record, while impressive, doesn’t feature great teams, but they are hot with seven wins in a row. On the other hand, Radford’s schedule includes wins over good teams like Wake Forest, with losses to only bigger teams like Kentucky and Virginia Tech (a team the Bulldogs almost beat to open the season). Radford has not lost a single home game either.
UNC-Asheville’s playing with a lot of competition in the Big South. However, I think Bulldogs will get into stride as conference play continues. Certainly, one loss to the streaking Campbell Camels will not break the season. Most importantly, this is just the beginning.