CHARLESTON, S.C. – UNC Asheville shot 63 percent in the second half and reeled off a 21-7 run to hand Charleston Southern a 83-73 loss at the Buc Dome on Saturday.
CSU (5-11, 1-4 Big South) sprinted out to a 14-2 lead and made ten of its first 13 shots in a strong first half. The Bucs led by one at intermission and were within a point with 14:28 remaining, before Asheville (12-5, 5-0 Big South) kicked its balanced offense into full gear. The Bulldogs entered with five players averaging double figures, and placed five there to maintain a share of first place in the league.
Raekwon Miller nailed three three-pointers and Dylan Smith added two during Asheville's critical 21-7 run that opened up a 76-61 advantage with 6:03 left. Smith led all scorers with 23, while Miller finished with 12. Dwayne Sutton recorded a double-double of 18 points and 13 rebounds.
Armel Potter bounced back from two down scoring nights to pace the Bucs with 17 points. Aaron Wheeler notched 15 points, six rebounds and four assists. Demetrius Pollard and Javis Howard chipped in 11 and 10 points, respectively.
"We had a three or four minute period where I thought we got tired, they made a few threes and that was the difference in the game," said CSU head coach Barclay Radebaugh afterward. "We really competed hard and got after it. I thought our game plan was excellent. They just jumped up and made big shots. They moved the ball very well against our zone at times, and got good looks."
CSU will look to snap a three-game losing streak on Thursday when it hosts Liberty.
"It's back to the drawing board for us and we're just working hard to stay positive and see what we can do to keep improving this season," Radebaugh said. "We'll come back tomorrow and take a look at what we did wrong and then turn it forward to the next one."
Asheville scored the first six points of the second half to move in front and pushed its edge to seven before CSU quelled the momentum momentarily with an 8-2 spurt. Rae Robinson and Pollard each connected on threes, with the latter making the score 55-54.
Baskets by Kevin Vannatta and Smith, and a three by Miller, quickly nudged the Bulldogs' lead to eight. Miller swished another three, and Smith drilled two around the eight-minute mark to put CSU behind 71-58. Even when Patrick Wallace responded with a three for CSU, Miller drilled another 22 seconds later to re-instate a 13-point margin. Smith punctuated the decisive sequence with a driving layup.
The Bucs were sharp early against a Bulldogs' squad that entered winners of four in a row and nine of ten. Potter and Wheeler keyed the charge with four points apiece, and CSU generated several stops and turnovers to start quickly. Howard had a lay-in off a pretty pass from Pollard, and raced in for a dunk off his own steal to polish off the juncture.
Asheville worked its way back into the game by getting to the free throw line and capitalizing off several CSU turnovers late in the half. The Bulldogs went 11-of-11 at the charity stripe in the opening stanza.
CSU still led 33-24 following a Howard jumper with 5:34 left until intermission, but Asheville countered with 14 of the next 18. Five different players scored over that period for the Bulldogs. Vannatta hit three free throws, and sailed through a left wing trey to give Asheville its first lead at 38-37. Wheeler sent the Bucs into halftime on top by a point with a buzzer-beating baseline jumper that went over the corner of the backboard before going down.
CSU squares off against Liberty at the Buc Dome on Thursday. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m. The Bucs swept the Flames a year ago.