by: Alayna Sherk – Staff Writer
The UNC Asheville men’s basketball team beat the Longwood Lancers in their half of the doubleheader on Saturday.
After the women’s basketball team suffered a 58-45 loss at the hands of Gardner-Webb, the tension was high to finish the Bulldog doubleheader on a positive note.
The men’s team delivered in a nail-biter of a game, 68-65.
It was a close game between two teams that have seen severely different seasons. The Longwood Lancers are in the midst of their first season with the Big South conference. Going into Saturday’s game they were 3-15, with no wins inside their new conference. Compare that to the older, more experienced Bulldogs and the score attests to Longwood’s determination.
“We knew they were going to come in here and fight us for the victory, and that’s exactly what they did,” said Keith Hornsby, the Bulldogs’ starting sophomore guard. “That’s what you want from Division I basketball.”
Still, this game was a struggle for the Buldogs. Neither of the two teams had more than an eight point lead at any point of the game, and UNCA barely held on to the lead for the second half.
The stats speak for themselves, and the answer lies at the 3-point line. Longwood made 43 percent of their attempts for three, a substantial 27 points. Contrast that with the Bulldogs meager 8 percent of completed 3-point attempts. The first 15 points for Longwood were all 3-pointers by junior guard David Robinson. However, once Jeremy Atkinson was covering him in the second half, Robinson only scored five points.
Robinson, who averages eight points a game, dropped 20 on the Bulldogs. It took UNCA most of the first half to get their defense to adapt, and even in the second half the Lancers kept it close.
Along with his defensive contributions, Atkinson made plays all over the court. After Trent Meyer stole the ball midway through the first half Atkinson made an off-balance, diving shot that had UNCA fans on their feet.
“Got to get the ball, son,” Atkinson said, when asked how he pushed himself to make that shot. “You get hurt, then you get hurt. You have to do it for your teammates.”
Atkinson led the Bulldogs with 17 total points and 11 rebounds. He was the only Bulldog with a double-double that night.
“We just had to play hard for 40 minutes against a team that was young and fairly inconsistent,” Atkinson said. “The focus was just playing hard for 40 and finishing strong.”
Atkinson led the team in field goals, rebounds and total points.
D.J. Cunningham’s 3 blocks, Meyer’s 5 assists and the team total of 19 free throws made the difference. Hornsby currently leads the nation in free throws. He is shooting .966 with 41 consecutive accomplished shots after Saturday’s game.
“The more I make it, the more pressure there is,” Hornsby said. “But it’s something you can’t let get to your head. When I’m out there, all I do is concentrate on the next one. That’s been working for me, so I’m going to stick with it.”