Late in the game, the UNC Asheville student section started chanting “o-ver-rated” at the #1 team in the country. It was pretty funny, especially given that Asheville was down 17 points. But what can you expect? It’s an unfamiliar situation to be in. The #1 team in the country only beating our small liberal arts school by 17 points?
The students got it wrong, however. UNC is not overrated. They will likely go to the Final Four this year and have a great shot at the national title. They beat Michigan State by 20+ points on Friday. No, UNC is not overrated. The Asheville Bulldogs are just that good, if a bit undersized.
Sunday’s game deserves two posts: one on the game itself and one on Asheville’s first regular-season game in Kimmel Arena. Let’s get the bad news over with first.
Asheville played well against the number one team in the country, particularly in the first half. The Tar Heels looked shaky and played sloppy, turning the ball over and allowing Asheville to take a 5 point lead with 11 minutes left.
At some point, however, the fact that the Bulldogs’ tallest starter was 6-5 had to set in. Roy Williams and the Tar Heels took advantage of this, feeding the ball to Tyler Zeller (27 points) and John Henson (2o points) whenever possible. The Tar Heels took only 7 three pointers to Asheville’s 28. The Frontcourt-by-Committee (which I’m going to call FBC from now on) can also attest to the difficulty of guarding two All-American big men, as Quinard Jackson and Jon Nwanunu both fouled out of the game. Chris Stephenson had four fouls and looked frustrated at times with the sheer difficulty of guarding John Henson, probably the most oddly-shaped person to step onto a UNCA court since Kenny George. Jaron Lane played well both halves though he gave the arena (feels weird typing that) a scare when he took a bad fall and twisted his right(?) knee on an inside play.
Matt and JP both had great games, though JP really got hot in the second half with some key three pointers that kept Asheville within a respectable margin before the bench players on both teams checked in with two minutes to go.
UNC forward/business wiz Tyler Zeller summed up Asheville’s problem by saying “They don’t have bigs.” D.J. Cunningham was sorely missed this afternoon. If you want to beat the number one team in the country, you have to match their size, and it was plainly evident that Jaleel Roberts and Chudier Pal, for now, lack that ability. If the Bulldogs want to seriously compete with bigger schools, the 4 and 5 positions must improve. Granted, few opponents UNCA faces this year will be on the level of UNC, but Pal and Roberts need to get more comfortable in the post in order to give us a legitimate option inside against bigger teams.
Next post tomorrow: the Kimmel Arena Experience. I promise.