UNC Asheville Men’s Basketball team records first 2-0 start since 2008

Seth Maile, [email protected], Staff photographer

The UNC Asheville Men’s Basketball team has recorded their first 2-0 start since the 2008-2009 season, after defeating the University of Central Florida and Brevard College in their first two matchups of the year. 

Coming off a 17-15 season which was stopped short in the quarterfinals of the Big South Tournament, the Bulldogs have reinstated themselves as a threat with two statement victories. 

The Bulldogs opened the season by traveling to the Addition Financial arena in Orlando, Fl to face the UCF Knights in front of an electric crowd of 4,600. 

They left Orlando with a historic away win against the Power 5 opponent, securing the victory 98-95 in double overtime. 

UNCA was led by Drew Pember and Taijon Jones, who combined for 60 points and 15 rebounds. Drew Pember netted 40 points, leading the team in scoring even after fouling out in the first overtime. 

The Bulldogs led for the entire first half of play and did not trail until the opening minutes of the second half, as their top two players Taylor Hendricks and CJ Kelly began finding their stride. 

The Knights pulled away with 5 minutes left to play and led the Bulldogs 71-61 with only three minutes of regulation remaining. However, four different Bulldogs would score in these three minutes, tying up the game with 30 seconds remaining. 

The two squads remained level as the clock hit zero and overtime was required to decide the victor. 

The first overtime did not prove to be enough as the two teams traded buckets for its duration. The only significant moment of the first overtime was Drew Pember picking up his 5th foul, meaning he was unable to play going forward. 

This meant other Bulldogs such as Jamon Battle and Fletcher Abee had to step up and make the plays lost in Pember’s absence. Battle and Abee did just that, both netting three point plays in the final two minutes of play to give the UNCA the lead. 

These clutch buckets were followed by a tremendous team effort on defense and a tough bucket from Trent Stephney in the closing seconds to secure the victory for UNC Asheville.

Following a five day rest, the Bulldogs opened their home schedule with a routine victory against local opponent Brevard College. 

UNC Asheville easily handled Brevard and defeated them 94-46. The Bulldogs went down 2-0 in the first seconds of the match and quickly scored 12 straight, never trailing again. 

Every available player on both squads entered the game, giving plenty of opportunity to newcomers such as Alex Caldwell and Amadou Sylla, who recorded 21 and 15 minutes respectively. 

The Bulldogs also used this match to practice offensive efficiency, as they shot 37.5% from three-point range and 71.4% from the free throw line. 

Taijon Jones led all scorers with 14 and Big South Preseason Player of the Year Drew Pember added a relaxed six points on 3-of-6 from the floor. 

The Bulldogs will hope to continue their hot streak as they travel to Atlanta, Georgia to take part in the Capitol Classic, where they will take on Texas A&M Commerce on Friday, Eastern Kentucky on Saturday, and round out the weekend against Georgia State on Sunday.

They return to Kimmel Arena to take on rival Western Carolina on November 26 at 2 p.m.