Jacksonville State (16-10) at UNC-Asheville (15-13)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 23, 4:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Kimmel Arena (1,100) -- Asheville, North Carolina. Television: None. Home Record: JSU 9-3, UNCA 9-3. Away Record: JSU 5-7, UNCA 6-7. Neutral Record: JSU 2-0, UNCA 0-3. Conference Record: JSU 8-7, UCSB 4-10. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAMES NOTES: With just two games left in the regular season the Jacksonville State Gamecocks will square off with the UNC-Asheville Bulldogs in a BracketBusters event at Kimmel Arena on Saturday afternoon.
Brian Williams sank a clutch layup with nine seconds remaining to lift JSU to a 67-65 victory against Southeast Missouri State its last time out. The win ended a three-game slide for the Gamecocks while improving their overall record to 16-10 this season. The win also came in the final home game for the Gamecocks, who are 5-7 on the road, and will wrap up the campaign against Belmont next Saturday.
The Bulldogs are coming into this contest on a three-game losing streak after a brutal 65-64 loss to Coastal Carolina on Tuesday. The recent slide has the Bulldogs falling off pace in the Big South as they are now tied for third at 9-5 in league battles. Overall the Bulldogs have a record of 15-13 with two games left on the schedule beginning against Presbyterian in the second-half of this two-game homestand.
Prior to Saturday neither of these teams had ever matched up on the hardwood.
JSU had a 65-57 lead with 3:20 remaining against SEMO but failed to get a field goal over the next three minutes. That allowed the Redhawks to pull even, 65-65, with 41 seconds left on the clock. The Gamecocks took control from there and Williams was able to get into the paint for what was the game- winning bucket.
Williams (13.0 ppg, 4.3 apg) shook off a poor shooting night (4-of-13) to nail that final shot as he extended his season-long streak in double figures to 11 games. Williams recent surge is nothing compared to how leading scorer Tarvin Gaines (16.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg) has been filling it up. The 6-foot-6 forward is averaging 25 points per game over the last three contests, and has reached at least 20 points in five of the last seven outings. Ronnie Boggs (11.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg) is the third member of the team scoring more than 10 points per game. Scoring options are severely limited from there with Nick Cook (5.2 ppg) the only other contributor above five points per game.
In a see-saw battle that featured nine ties and 11 lead changes, the Bulldogs were done in by a jump shot with four seconds left from Coastal Carolina's Kierre Greenwood. The Bulldogs had a chance to win at the buzzer but Trent Meyer's 3-point attempt was off the mark.
UNC-Asheville is one of the better offensive teams in the Big South. In fact the Bulldogs lead the conference in field-goal percentage (.454), while scoring a healthy 72.1 points per game. Leading the charge is Jeremy Atkinson (17.5 ppg, 7.1 rpg) who is among the top 10 players in the Big South in scoring and rebounding. The 6-foot-4 forward has managed to score in double figures in all but one game this season. Keith Hornsby (15.2 ppg) has given the Bulldogs a second strong scoring option, while Trent Meyer (10.3 ppg, 3.9 apg) leads the team in assists.
Though neither of these teams is likely to make a run at the NCAA Tournament, this contest could be crucial for seeding in some of the lesser postseason tournaments. Atkinson and Hornsby will need to be at the top of their games against Gaines and the suddenly hot Williams.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UNC-Asheville 74, Jacksonville State 72
02/23 10:45:04 ET