Winthrop (19-12) vs. UNC-Asheville (17-14)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 8, 12 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: The HTC Center (3,212) -- Conway, South Carolina. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: Winthrop 12-3, UNCA 11-2. Away Record: Winthrop 5-9, UNCA 5-10. Neutral Record: Winthrop 2-0, UNCA 1-2. Conference Record: Winthrop 12-6, UNCA 10-6. Series Record: Winthrop leads, 35-32.
GAME NOTES: After taking down North Division top-seed High Point in the quarterfinals, the Winthrop Eagles will try to earn another upset victory when they take on the UNC-Asheville Bulldogs in the semifinals of the 2014 Big South Tournament at the HTC Center.
Winthrop upset top-seeded High Point 62-60, and that came after the Eagles, the fourth-seed out of the South, blew past defending conference tournament champion Liberty (77-65) in the opening round. They have won four straight games overall.
UNCA, which had a bye in the first round, was in action in the quarterfinals against the North's third-seed Radford. The Bulldogs won in a 96-87 shootout in that contest, giving them wins in four of their last five games going back to the regular season. They are sporting an inferior overall record compared to the Eagles (17-14), but earned a higher seed due to their affiliation with the North Division, where they finished second behind High Point.
These teams split the season series, with UNCA earning an 81-66 triumph on its home floor, and Winthrop returning the favor in a 107-100 overtime victory on Feb. 26. The all-time series has been just as even, with the Eagles holding a slight edge (35-32). The winer this time takes on either VMI or Coastal Carolina in the championship game on Sunday.
Andre Smith was the hero for Winthrop in its win over High Point, with the Eagles trailing 60-59 in the final seconds, Smith drained a 3-pointer to stun the Panthers and push Winthrop forward. Smith finished with 12 points, with Keon Moore pacing Winthrop, which shot 61.5 percent from the floor after halftime, with 23 points.
The Eagles are a solid offensive group. They net 74.2 ppg and shoot just a shade under 45 percent from the field. Moore (13.6 ppg) is the top scoring threat for a balanced attack that features four players averaging in double figures. Moore's 23 points against High Point were the most he has scored since Feb. 22 when he tallied a season-high 27 against Gardner-Webb. Joining him are Keon Johnson (12.3 ppg), Joab Jerome (12.1 ppg) and Smith (10.5 ppg). Johnson and Jerome both had trouble against High Point, combining for 13 points on just 6-of-18 from the field.
Jaron Lane poured in 29 points, Andrew Rowsey tacked on 27 and D.J. Cunningham tallied 18 points and 19 rebounds in UNCA's second-round win over Radford. The Bulldogs connected on 62 percent of their shots from the floor and earned a 33-23 rebounding advantage, thanks primarily to Cunningham's effort.
UNCA is a solid offensive group, but can't be expected to have such an offensive eruption every time out. The Bulldogs are scoring 77.6 ppg and shooting 45.6 percent from the floor this season, but they have also let up 75 6 ppg on the defensive end. Rowsey (20.2 ppg) and Lane (16.3 ppg) keep things moving on offense, with each capable of carrying the team when called upon. Rowsey was the second-best scorer in the conference during the regular season, while Lane ranked in the top-10. Cunningham (11.3 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 3.6 bpg) is an imposing force on the interior, entering the postseason as the league-leader in both rebounds and blocks.
The trio of Rowsey, Lane and Cunningham is as strong as any in the conference. Expect all three to play to form with a spot in the Big South Tournament final on the line.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UNC-Asheville 76, Winthrop 72
03/08 10:16:11 ET