UNC Asheville (1-1) vs. Tennessee (1-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, November 15, 12:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Coliseo Ruben Rodriguez (12,000) -- Bayamon, Puerto Rico. Television: ESPN U. Home Record: UNCA 1-0, Tennessee 0-0. Away Record: UNCA 0-1, Tennessee 0-0. Neutral Record: UNCA 0-0, Tennessee 0-0. Conference Record: UNCA 0-0, Tennessee 0-0. Series Record: Tennessee leads, 8-0.
GAME NOTES: The UNC Asheville Bulldogs and the Tennessee Volunteers will square off at Coliseo Ruben Rodriguez in Bayamon on Thursday afternoon in the first round of the sixth annual Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
UNCA got its season started with a pair of games against Tar Heel State foes, defeating Western Carolina at home last Friday (71-61) before falling at UNC- Wilmington on Sunday (67-59). The Bulldogs have now lost 11 in a row to UNCW. It looks to be a down season for the two-time defending Big South Conference champions, as they lost six seniors from last year's squad that went 24-10.
Tennessee opened up its season with a 76-67 win over Kennesaw State, upping its streak of consecutive home-opening wins to 21. The Vols have appeared in two early-season tournaments in Puerto Rico in their history, winning two-of- three games at the 1999 Puerto Rico Holiday Classic, and losing two-of-three at the 1991 San Juan Shootout.
Tennessee has never lost to UNC Asheville in eight previous matchups, the most recent of which being a 72-68 decision in Knoxville on Dec. 20, 2011.
UNCA kept it close against UNCW on Sunday, and even held a one-point lead with just under three minutes to play. However, the team was outscored down the stretch, 11-3, as it was saddled with the loss. Jeremy Atkinson was once again the leading scorer for the Bulldogs with 17 points on 5-of-9 efficiency from the field, but he also committed six of the squad's 22 turnovers. Atkinson is averaging 20.5 ppg and 8.0 rpg in the first two contests. D.J. Cunningham narrowly missed a double-double with 11 points and nine rebounds the last time out, and he also recorded six blocks. Trent Meyer scored 11 points as well, and he was credited with three of the team's 13 steals. It was not a very good shooting night for UNCA. After connecting on better than 52 percent of its shots in the opener, the club hit just 34.5 percent against the Seahawks, and it was especially dreadful from three-point range (2-of-17). The Bulldogs have also had trouble holding on to the ball, committing 43 turnovers already.
Tennessee played a much closer game than it would have liked hosting a team that won just three games a year ago, but it was able to pull out the win behind a fantastic shooting performance. The Vols connected on better than 60 percent of their field goal attempts (26-of-43), which included seven three- pointers, to help fend off a pesky Kennesaw State squad. Skylar McBee and Jordan McRae led the way for UT with 14 points apiece, and the two combined on all seven of the team's three-pointers. Kenny Hall scored 13 points and grabbed a team-high six rebounds. Jarnell Stokes stuffed the stat sheet with 10 points, five rebounds, five assists, five steals and three blocks. Trae Golden (eight points) just missed double figures in scoring, but he was able to find the open man all night with six assists. Golden led the team in scoring (13.6 ppg) and assists (4.5 apg) last season, and the offense will once again run through him.
UNCA has experienced significant turnover in personnel this season, and while Atkinson is a legitimate scoring threat, not many other players can be relied on consistently. Tennessee has a nice mix of physical forwards, ball handlers, and shooters that should give the Bulldogs fits.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Tennessee 77, UNC Asheville 62
11/15 10:34:49 ET