by: Alayna Sherk – Staff Writer
UNC Asheville’s victory against Presbyterian College was a much-needed win following four straight losses, according to the coach and players.
Unfortunately, their loss later in the week against Winthrop drops the Bulldogs into the third place position in the Big South Tournament standings.
“We hope to make a run for the tournament like we did last year,” senior forward Jeremy Atkinson said. “Earn a ring, get a championship.”
Though the Bulldogs have racked up five losses within the last six games, Head Coach Eddie Biedenbach said the team is making progress.
“We’ve been playing better,” said Biedenbach after UNCA’s win against Presbyterian. “But playing better and not winning doesn’t help the fans. It helps us get ready for the Big South Tournament. Our work in practice and our attention to some of the mistakes we’ve been making paid off.”
Some of UNCA’s biggest issues, like nabbing the offensive rebound, are starting to show signs of improvement. The Bulldogs rounded up 20 offensive rebounds, but they were caught cold-shooting snap in their loss to Winthrop. The score was a nine point difference, even with the Bulldogs shooting only .318 from the field and .176 from the three-point line. The Bulldogs said they have felt the frustration of losing a series of close games.
“It was getting really old to lose how we’ve been losing,” D.J. Cunningham said. “The last four games we’ve lost by a total of six points. This time we were determined that we were going to win.”
It was their last game at home for the season, and senior palyers said they felt pressured to go out on a winning note.
“It’s a great way to go,” said Josh Seligson, a senior on the team. “I had a great career here and I’m really glad we could leave on a win here. We’re all looking forward to the Big South Tournament.”
The home court advantage and the support of the fans were also factors in the Bulldog’s triumph.
“The sight of the crowd kept us going,” Atkinson said. “We needed some help and we needed a win out there so we could get a good seed in the tournament.”
The Bulldogs will face some stiff competition from their Big South rivals in the ournament. Luckily, Biedenbach said UNCA has had a few teammates step up to the call within the last couple of games.
“We have a better rotation with Corey Littlejohn being able to play regularly and Sam Hughes is doing a much better job,” Biedenbach said. “The addition of those two guys finally coming into their own means we can afford a little bit of foul trouble and gives our key players a little bit of rest so that we can play a lot harder in the last six minutes.”
The Bulldogs have their eyes set on taking their third Big South Tournament in a row. UNCA has the advantage of leadership, with the winningest coach of the Big South and seniors who have played in the Big South Tournament twice before.
“The team doesn’t listen to me, they do as I do,” Atkinson said. “They see me play hard, then they play hard. They seem me dive on out on to the court for the ball, they’ll do the same thing. I just lead by example and the guys follow me. The guys coming off the bench, they do a great job. Sam and Corey have been doing well.”
The Bulldogs fell to Longwood in conway, S.C., on Tuesday, ending their tournament run in the first round.