Men’s Basketball crowned Big South regular season champions for the first time since 2018


Seth Maile

Senior guard Alex Cardwell gets prepared to guard Gardner Webb’s D.Q. Nicholas.

Jake Wilson, Sports Writer, [email protected]

The Bulldogs defeated Gardner-Webb 75-63 on Saturday, winning them their first regular season conference title since the 2017-2018 season.

“Just an awesome day for our program. I think our guys understand winning is very hard, and what they did, what they accomplished is very hard but there’s still a lot of work to be done,” said men’s basketball head coach Mike Morrell.

More than 1,800 fans stood in attendance to watch the finale of UNC Asheville’s homecoming week. Gardner-Webb entered Saturday as winners of seven of their last eight games.

“It’s always fun playing against good competition. You know if you aren’t at your best, the game can go either way. It’s a big confidence boost when you beat tough competition like Gardner Webb,” said junior forward Nick McMullen.

The first half was a back and forth battle. The largest first half lead from either side was three points as both teams struggled to separate from each other. After Alex Caldwell knocked down his first triple of the day, UNCA led Gardner-Webb 29-28 heading into halftime.

“At half time, we talked about how we turned the ball over a lot and had some defensive breakdowns and if we can get ahold of those two points, we would put ourselves in a better position to win the second half,” McMullen said.

The Bulldogs caught their stride in the second half as they took the lead with 17 minutes left. From there, Doc Battle’s 16-point second half performance helped UNCA outscore their opponent 40-29 within the remaining minutes. The 6-foot-5 forward shot 80% from the field and had two crowd exploding dunks in the team’s win.

“Doc’s athleticism is up there with the best in the country. When he is at his best, he is focused on doing whatever the team needs for him to do. In the second half, he made up his mind he was going to defend, rebound and be the hardest playing guy on the court. The scoring aside, Doc made some timely plays defensively and grabbed important rebounds which really helped secure the game down the stretch,” said assistant men’s basketball coach Woody Taylor.

With second place Radford falling to Longwood 73-63 in a game played simultaneously, UNCA secured their spot as the 2023 Big South regular season champions. Additionally, if the Bulldogs do not qualify for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, they will receive an automatic bid to the NIT Tournament.

“It’s a great feeling to prove the doubters wrong and reassure yourself what you are and what you are capable of,” McMullen said.