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Big South Finals

March 13, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments



Big South Finals Recap

by Michael Protos

UNC-Asheville goes dancing for the first time ever

5th-seeded UNC-Asheville completed its miraculous post-season run by defeating 6th-seeded Radford Saturday in the Big South conference championship game. The Bulldogs used suffocating defensive pressure to build a double-digit first half lead, then simply outscored Radford down the stretch to win 85-71.

The Bulldogs held Radford to a lowly 26 percent from the field in the first half, limiting the Highlanders to only two field goals in the final fourteen minutes of the half. Senior guard Alex Kragel, the hero from Friday’s thriller over Winthrop, drained a half-court shot to place the exclamation point on the first half for UNC-Asheville.

UNC-Asheville relied on its senior leadership to carry the Bulldogs to the championship. Senior guard Andre Smith led all scores with eighteen points. Senior center Ben McGonagil registered his third double-double in three tournament games with fourteen points and ten rebounds. Senior guard Raymond Arrington, junior forward Aaron Gill and freshman guard Chris Goodin kept the Highlanders close by each scoring fifteen points in the game.

Radford can look forward to future success with five freshman gaining invaluable experience in this tournament run. Freshman guard Whit Holcomb-Faye scored fourteen points while proving that he is a warrior by bouncing back from a physical game to hit several important shots. But the Bulldogs simply managed to play more consistently at both ends, en route to the conference championship.

The victory marks the first time in school history UNC-Asheville will go to the Big Dance. Freshly fitted with Cinderella’s slipper, UNC-Asheville likely must win the play-in game as the 64th or 65th team to make the tournament. UNC-Asheville reaches the NCAA Tournament with a 14-16 overall record. As of March 2, the Bulldogs’ RPI was 216. As a conference the Big South ranked 29th out of 31 Division I conferences. So UNC-Asheville must hope many sub-.500 teams claim their respective automatic bids to avoid facing a top seed in the tournament.

But the dream continues and UNC-Asheville can rest comfortably as one of the first teams to know it will definitely play basketball again this season.

     

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