Asheville 66, Gardner Webb 60

(Editor’s note: apologies for the late posting.  It’s final exam time and things are getting a bit hectic.  We should be back to normal by the 17th, if not earlier.)

Someone needs to tell the Asheville bulldogs that there are 20 minutes in the first half.  It certainly didn’t look that way last night, as the Bulldogs eeked out a six point win over Gardner Webb despite scoring only one point in the first eight minutes.

It was a game of runs as Asheville stormed back midway through the first half behind Jaron Lane and Chris Stephenson.   Lane continued to demonstrate his importance to the Bulldogs both this year and next, while Stephenson was one point short of a double double with 9 points and 12 rebounds.  Matt Dickey and J.P. Primm were their usual selves after the under-12 timeout, combining for 25 points.

This was not a pretty win, however, and the Bulldogs had to rely on their experience and grit to pull it out midway through the second half.  J.P., for example, had only 1 assist the entire game.  Keith Hornsby and Jon Nwanunu only played 4 minutes a piece, while Quinard Jackson struggled on the boards, finishing with 3.

A win is a win, and now Asheville will return home today to face USC Upstate and hopefully avenge last year’s loss.  Hopefully the Bulldogs’ performance will begin when the ball is tipped.

Preview – Asheville at Gardner Webb

When: 12/1/11, 5:30 PM

Where: Boiling Springs, NC

Media: WWNC 570/IheartRadio, online stream

Now the real test begins.

Eddie Biedenbach’s teams have a great record with Big South openers, going 14-1 in his tenure at Asheville while winning the last six openers in a row.  Obviously, however, opening your conference schedule with yet another game on the road (Asheville’s last three games have been ‘away’) is not an ideal situation and the Bulldogs will need to come out strong.

Hopefully one of the lessons learned in the Bahamas was the need to come out strong in the first half.  As was noted here and several other places on the interwebs, Asheville beat Connecticut for 37 out of 40 minutes last week.

The Runnin’ Bulldogs lost a lot of players last year including Luke Davis, who transferred to that other state school down I-40.  However, they’ve benefited from several outstanding freshmen, including Max Landis, as well as from returning stars like Stefon Johnson and Jason Dawson.  Johnson in particular should pose a challenge to the Frontcourtbycommittee to contain, as he’s 6-10 and 25o pounds (40 pounds heavier than last year).  Hopefully Roberts gets some minutes in and develops more as the Bulldogs will need a big man come tournament time.

Boiling Springs is a small backwoods North Carolina town with nothing to do except (1) study, (2) hang out at gas stations, and (3) watch Runnin’ Bulldogs basketball.  Expect the gym to be loud tonight. Nonetheless, the better team should come in tonight and get a W that should set the tone for conference play.

Asheville 78, Gardner Webb 70.