Big South Tournament

UNC-Asheville hosts four games tomorrow, beginning at 1PM.

1PM #2 Radford v. #10 Longwood

Longwood, fresh off their Tuesday upset over High Point, faces a Radford squad it has yet to beat. While Longwood was able to break a losing streak that stretched back to mid-January, they did so with High Point’s help. High Point committed 17 turnovers and shot poorly, especially from the FT line. Radford, on the other hand, is riding a four game win streak, most recently defeating this Longwood team.

3PM #3 Winthrop v. #6 Gardner-Webb

After finishing the season with a victory over an Ahmad Thomas-less Asheville team, Gardner-Webb will face a Winthrop team that dropped its last two games of the regular season. GW finished the season with two road victories so Winthrop will have their hands full against a team that they split against in the regular season: 90-67 in Rock Hill, 71-90 in Boiling Springs.

7PM #1 UNCA v. #8 Charleston Southern

CSU will walk into Kimmel with a load of confidence. They easily put away Presbyterian on Tuesday to add a third win to their streak. The last time CSU lost: UNCA – and in OT! All I’m saying is, the Buccaneers can do it. UNCA will need to be prepared and Ahmad Thomas healthy to fend off this team.

9PM #5 Liberty v. #4 Campbell

Last year’s tournament could’ve been called the Chris Clemons Tournament after his tremendous performance (Sorry to bring it up again Bulldog fans). Add to that, Campbell has already beaten the Flames twice this year, and Campbell should feel pretty confident. Then again, beating any team three times in a season is a tough job.

 

I should be around all day so I hope to see you. GO BULLDOGS!!!

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Mid-Season Patterns

Wow, with the end of December and breaking through the holidays, it’s taken some effort finding time to get back to this. So without further delay…

Men’s Basketball

After finishing 7-6 in nonconference play, the Bulldogs are 3-2 in conference play, with losses to High Point and Radford (both away) and wins over Campbell, Longwood, and Presbyterian.

As UNCA has moved forward, the turnover numbers have come down, but still not entirely under control. Free-throw percentage is up, except for the Presbyterian game. Asheville’s steals per game are steady and opponent’s are committing double-digit turnovers. On average, the Bulldogs win the rebound game.

On the other hand, with the exception of Presbyterian, most teams of late have shot at least 46% from the floor. And UNC-Asheville’s assists-to-turnovers ratio is too close to 1:1.

Of course, play in the Big South is as usual: teams win at home, lose on the road:

Radford: 2-0 at home, 2-1 on road. The two road wins were the two teams at the bottom of the conference.

Gardner-Webb: 4-0 at home, 1-1 on road. The road win a 2-point victory over Campbell.

Liberty: 2-1 at home, 1-1 on road. Honestly, the home loss to Longwood was pretty outrageous because they only scored 51 points. The road win was a 3-point victory over Winthrop.

Then UNCA, fourth in the conference: 2-0 at home, 1-2 on road. The road win was over Presbyterian, second to last in the conference.

I could keep going, but you get the picture. All but one Big South team is at least .500 at home. Three teams are undefeated at home, including UNCA. On the other hand, and as you would expect if a team plays a challenging non-conference schedule, no Big South team has a winning road record.

Women’s Basketball

Field goal percentage is trending upward and they’re winning the rebound game. Unfortunately, turnovers remain high, much higher than assists on the season. And assist-to-baskets is less than 50%.

After a tough start to the season, UNCA has won 5 of the last 7, with both losses coming at home against High Point (currently on top of the conference standings) and Furman.

The Bulldogs are second in the conference at 3-1.

As I had hoped, this team seems to be coming together.

 

Hope to see everyone tonight at Kimmel against Charleston Southern.

GO BULLDOGS!!!

Figuring Things Out

Men’s Basketball

Riding high off three straight wins, Asheville faced the USC Upstate Spartans, who will be a Big South Conference opponent very soon. While these two teams have played a lot, this game was entirely UNCA.

Never losing the lead, UNCA dominated by shooting 50% for the game, including 56.5% from long range and 72% from the line. Most importantly, the Bulldogs scored 28 baskets on 22 assists, a remarkable 79%. They also forced a majority of the Spartans’ turnovers, scoring 25 points off turnovers. The final: 82-70 Bulldogs.

Notables include 6-8 from 3 for Teague, a double-double for Thomas (24 points and 11 rebounds), and a close, but not quite double-double for Baehre (13 points and 8 rebounds, 6 offensive).

And everything good about that game was the opposite against Clemson. For example, the Bulldogs only shot 34% for the game, 26% from three, and 62.5% from the line with only 8 attempts. Asheville committed 16 turnovers, many unforced.

I’m not suggesting Clemson’s defense wasn’t good, or that they didn’t deserve the win; Clemson dominated paint with 48 points. But even when the Bulldogs had looks, the ball would not pass through the hoop – and when that happens, not much can be done to win. Clemson destroys 83-52.

The quick roadtrip south started at Clemson and ended in Greenville against Furman. This winnable game gave way to the main nemesis of UNC-Asheville: turnovers. Teams shot roughly the same percentages, received support from the bench, and played well in the paint. The differences were 21 turnovers by the Bulldogs to Furman’s 14, 13 FTA’s for the Bulldogs to Furman’s 22, and Furman: 20 assists on 29 baskets, Asheville: 9 assists on 29 baskets.

If I showed someone those numbers without mentioning the score (83-72 Furman), I guarantee they would say that Furman won. Good teams don’t win by committing that many turnovers. Thankfully, UNCA will have another chance to defeat a Southern Conference opponent when they face Western Carolina on the 17th.

Lastly, Division II opponent from just over the mountain, Milligan College, came to Kimmel and it was exactly what you would hope or expect: 97-60 Asheville (and without Ahmad Thomas). The Bulldogs forced turnovers, high assists-to-baskets-made (22-31), and dominated the rebound game. And, yes, a bit of sloppy play in the second half lead to a total of 16 turnovers for UNC-Asheville.

I’ll add that it was great to see former Bulldogs John Williams and Chris Stephenson in attendance.

Women’s Basketball

Unless you’ve missed them completely, you’ve probably heard that the women’s team is struggling to win this year. Absent a win over Division II opponent, Warren Wilson, the Bulldogs have yet to make it happen.

However, in the past two games against D-I opponents, UNC-Asheville has hung tightly, at times having led. At Wofford, the Bulldogs led through three quarters before stagnating in the fourth. While Asheville outrebounded, they also out-turned-over, leading to 20 points for Wofford.

An interesting note for the Wofford game, Zip Scott saw 26 minutes, leading to a start against Mercer and 28 minutes.

With the Wofford game close and  scoring 100 against Warren Wilson despite the team’s scoring struggles thorughout the year, I expected a competitive game against a 7-2 Mercer squad. I expected a team actively growing. I was not disappointed there.

I was disappointed to see Mercer explode in the third quarter despite Ali Trani starting the quarter with 2 three pointers, an assist, a rebound, and a forced turnover; to see some bad calls and cheap fouls that led to 3 Bulldogs fouling out; and to see a few too many turnovers, though Mercer didn’t completely capitalize on those, only 12 points on 14 turnovers.

Despite the margin at the end of the game, Asheville stayed close to Mercer.

I’m hopeful this is Coach Brenda Mock Kirkpatrick working her magic as the team comes together to present a more formidable squad come conference play.

That First Week Tho’

Men’s Basketball

One up, one down, and one incredibly tough loss. The Bulldogs faced a tough season opener against Rhode Island before returning home to face a DII squad from just up the mountains in Lees-McRae.

The story of the Rhode Island game can be summed up in a single word: turnovers. The Bulldogs committed 27 turnovers, only 13 were forced by Rhode Island. As a result, the Rams attempted 19 more shots than UNC-Asheville and scored 28 points off turnovers.

While UNCA did struggle shooting in the first half, the most painful shooting was at the free throw (FT) line: 18-32 (56%).

The truth is that Rhode Island is the better team. They dominated the game, never surrendering the lead, and points in the paint (52) and their bench provided ample support (35 points). Yet not everything was bad for the Bulldogs. They scored 18 baskets on 11 assists and were almost even in the rebounding game. With shots not falling and an abundance of turnovers, UNCA lost 84-60.

The trends from the first game carried into the Lees-McRae game, but hardly at those levels. For example, Asheville committed 17 turnovers, but the Bobcats only had 9 steals, meaning equal parts forced and unforced errors. Team FT% went up, but only to 63%.

UNCA’s shooting improved, though they struggled from long range. Raekwon Miller, who struggled against Rhode Island in every way, shot 5-6, including 3-3 from 3, and 4-5 from the line. The Bulldogs also accounted for 15 of the Bobcats’ 18 turnovers.

Similar to the first game, UNC-Asheville is the better team. They destroyed in the paint, rebounding and points, took advantage of turnovers, and never surrendered the lead.

While I wasn’t able to catch the first game on the A10 stream, I took my usual seat for the Lees-McRae game. I was surprised at the talent of L.J. Thorpe, who did not play against Rhode Island, but he can be a little loose. His alley-oop to Jonathan Baehre was incredible, but in the 6 minutes he played, he managed 2 assists and 2 turnovers. Jalen Seegars also had a great game, scoring 10 points in 19 minutes, including 2-3 from 3 and 4-5 from the line.

On the other hand, Thomas looked off on Monday night. And, just as a note of a slight disappointment for myself, Jonathan Baehre looked a bit slow on his feet. UNCA’s domination really couldn’t be felt until the last 7 minutes of the first half; before then, the game felt closer than it was.

Finally, Vandy. Oh, Vandy. While the Bulldogs hung tough, clutch FT shooting at the end of the game by Vanderbilt kept UNCA from winning. Asheville outrebounded, shot close, and forced turnovers, but also committed unforced turnovers. The good news, as far as team growth, UNC-Asheville shot almost 87% from the stripe, a marked improvement.

A poor shooting night by Teague, but an excellent showcase for Wnuk, 2-3 from 3 and 7-11 from the floor. Also, Baehre showed his range with 1-1 from 3 and 2-2 for the game.

Finishing just short, 79-76 Commodores, UNCA played a good game and, if you believe in moral victories, they should be proud of this one.

Women’s Basketball

The women faced no cupcakes to start the season, but unfortunately were treated like ones when they played NC State. So I’ll skip over that one and focus on the very winnable, but ultimately lost, games against Western Carolina and UNC Charlotte.

Against WCU, the bulldogs played well except one area: shooting, 29% in the first half, 34% in the second half, and 17% from 3 for the game. Having lost key 3-point shooters from last year’s team, it’s difficult to see this one struggle. That said, the only quarter with a substantial point difference was the second. Asheville played hard and had the game within reach before Western closed out for the win.

Coming into Kimmel, I felt like the UNC-Charlotte would be a game of equals. I was not disappointed. However, simliar to the Western game, one bad quarter, this time the third, kept the Bulldogs from grabbing a win. While the game finished 51-47 Charlotte, UNCA had chances closing out the game to take the lead. Shooting again doomed the team: 34% for the game, 45.5% from the line, and 12.5% from 3 (this was really Wall, the only Bulldog to score from long range, who shot only 28.6% herself).

Outside of shooting, Bree Fitzgerald fouled out. After she left the game, a signifcant difference could be seen. The backups, Jordan-Brown, Esdah, and Fisher, couldn’t generate the defensive presence that Fitzergald held over the opponent. The 49ers outrebounded the Bulldogs by 8.

Hopefully, being this close to the “W”‘s will help as the women grow through the season.

Around the Big South

A couple things of note for the conference.

First, the Big South will be adding teams next year in USC Upstate, a staple of the Asheville schedule for some time, and Hampton University, an HBCU located near Newport News, VA.

Second, two notes on our men’s basketball competition. Gardner-Webb put up a good fight before losing to Miami, 77-45. Liberty beat Wake Forest 79-66, driving one Deac fan to the brink.

 

Hope to see everyone at Kimmel on the 22nd when the Men face Monmouth.

GO BULLDOGS!

 

New in Blue: Amaryah Corpening

One of my promises for this blog was to cover our incredible women’s team more like the men’s team, which means I’m covering women’s recruits too.

Amaryah Corpening comes to UNC-Asheville from a high-performing, local program: Freedom High in Morganton, NC. Coached by UNCA alumnus, Amber Reddick, and part of the undefeated state championship group, Amaryah Corpening is a tremendously tough defender. I know because we’ve got video from her Junior year.

In man defense, Corpening shuts down her opponents, either denying the pass or forcing them to get rid of the ball quickly. In zone defense, she shows a great understanding of space. Her toughness turns into fight in a few instances, like at the beginning when she shoves another girl off-ball, but that sort of fight isn’t exactly a bad thing. In the paint, that toughness provides Corpening, 5’7″, with the ability to box out and rebound.

In her final season, Amaryah Corpening averaged 14.6 point per game, 5 rebounds per game, and 4.2 steals. However, she only averaged 3.6 assists per game. For a vocal leader like Corpening, that number feels a little low, but assists can be finicky since good passes aren’t always rewarded by teammates.

Lastly, from the video, Corpening possesses excellent shot form. Anytime she sets her feet she’s making the shot. Her misses were instances of suprise or off-balance shots. Her highlights, obviously, bear that out as well.

Overall, I think UNCA has a great talent, especially on defense, in Amaryah Corpening.

New in Blue: Jalen Seegars

One of the great joys in college basketball is rejoicing when a recruit chooses your school over your rivals. Unfortunately, this gets much less press in the mid-majors like the Big South. However, Jalen Seegars did just that. With offers from High Point and Winthrop, even non-rivals Monmouth and Vermont, Seegars chose the blue and gray of UNCA.

Other schools, like UConn and Wake Forest, gave serious interest, but as the season played out, the offers were mid-majors.

As a 6’4″, 220lbs guard, Jalen Seegars offers great finishing, consistently high scoring, and, based on some reviews, great defense. The term “spark” seems to describes his potential. Also, the term, “hops”…

To put this in perspective, UNCA landed a recruit who intrigued Power 5 schools, but didn’t receive offers. To me, that suggests unrealized potential, potential Coach McDevitt and the staff can hopefully unlock.

To see more highlights of Jalen Seegars, check this.

New in Blue: Leonard Thorpe

A smooth combo guard from Florida, Leonard, L.J., Thorpe comes to UNC-Asheville with lots of potential.

UNCA lists him at 6’4″, 225, which suggests the strength and size to body up when necessary. In an PrepHoops interview in March of 2016, Thorpe suggests he’s known as a shooter. HoopSeen ranked him 33rd in the state of Florida around the same time. And his mix of statistical reports shows solidly double-digit points with greater than five rebounds and five assists, including four triple-doubles in his senior season.

Like many other recruits, I couldn’t find full game footage, but in the highlight reel below (Thorpe’s the one with the hair), he shows some nice finish at the rim and a smooth behind the back pass.

One of the more interesting notes from the video: right hand dominance. The video only provides a small sample, but you can see him finish from the left side twice with the right hand. However, his handles don’t seem to be affected as his dribble penetration occurs with the left hand in a couple of instances. And speaking of handles…

Did you see that? Crossover, between the legs, behind the back, and finishes at the rim.

L.J. Thorpe shows vision in passing and handling. More importantly, in that last video, you can see his smooth, single-motion jump shot, similar to many big time NBA shooters.

Again, as with all highlight videos, the one thing I cannot see is defense. However, I’m sure we will all be able to assess that soon enough.

Regardless, if I rated L.J. Thorpe in a word, you guessed it: smooth.