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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Tuesday, March 5, 2 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: HTC Center (3,600) -- Conway, South Carolina. Television: None. Home Record: Longwood 4-9, UNC-Asheville 10-5. Away Record: Longwood 2-14, UNC-Asheville 6-7. Neutral Record: Longwood 1-1, UNC Asheville 0-3. Conference Record: Longwood 4-12, UNC-Asheville 10-6. Series Record: UNC-Asheville leads, 3-0.
GAMES NOTES: The two-time defending Big South champion UNC-Asheville Bulldogs will begin their title defense in the first round of the 2013 conference tournament at the HTC Center against the Longwood Lancers on Tuesday.
Not much was expected of Longwood this season as it was its first as a member of the Big South and second at the Division I level. The Lancers struggled all season and finished with a 7-24 overall record along with a 4-12 mark against league foes. The Lancers did manage wins in four of their final six conference contests to end the season but it was too little too late as they come into this tournament as the sixth seed out of the North Division.
Asheville is gunning for its third straight Big South tourney title and fifth overall. The Bulldogs looked to be well on their way when they won seven straight games into February. However they stumbled down the stretch with setbacks in six of their last seven games. The tough end to the season left the Bulldogs 16-15 overall and 10-6 in league play, which was enough to earn the No. 3 seed out of the South Division.
This will be just the fourth meeting all-time between these teams. When they met as Big South foes for the first time earlier this season Asheville escaped with a 68-65 victory on the road.
Even though Longwood had one of its more successful stretches during the final weeks of the season, the Lancers were dispatched, 94-80, in the finale against VMI. The Lancers perimeter defense was severely lacking in the contest as they allowed the Keydets to drop in 16 shots from beyond the arc.
Defense in general has not been Longwood's strong suit as it continues to acquaint itself with the level of competition at the Division I level. The Lancers were lit up for 81.5 points per game on 48.7 percent shooting this season which were each among the bottom five marks in the country. The Lancers were also one of the worst teams on the boards (32.8 pg) in the Big South. Tristan Carey (15.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg) is the leading scorer on the roster as well as the teams most dangerous threat from distance as he has hit a team-high 76 3-pointers. Michael Kessens (13.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg) has shot a team best 53.2 percent from the floor while patrolling the interior and Jeylani Dublin (10.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg) can score efficiently as the third option.
UNCA also had a let down in its final game of the regular season. The Bulldogs dropped a 70-61 decision on the road against Winthrop in the contest by shooting just 31.8 percent from the floor while allowing the Eagles to make good on 50 percent.
Jeremy Atkinson (17 ppg, 7.0 rpg) put in an average performance by his standards in the contest, scoring 17 points to go with seven rebounds. The 6- foot-4 forward doesn't have a ton of size but still scores and rebounds well. In fact, Atkinson has been in double figures in 38 of the last 39 games for the Bulldogs dating back to last season. Keith Hornsby (15.1 ppg) teams with Atkinson to form one of the better scoring tandems in the conference. No other player on the team scores in double figures though Trent Meyer (9.9 pg, 4.0 apg) has shown flashes of scoring ability while leading the way distribution wise. D.J. Cunningham (7.7 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 3.1 bpg) is a force on defense as he leads the Big South in blocks (93) and is just one rejection from setting the Asheville single season record.
Even though UNCA was not as dominant as it had been in years past in the Big South, it would still be a major shock if Longwood was able to knock off the defending champs.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UNC-Asheville 76, Longwood 64
03/05 11:31:43 ET