After the first session of the Big South Quarterfinals, I had some time on my hands before the evening session. I had yet to check in to the hotel I was staying at, so I figured I would get that done in the meantime. I could have taken the highways to get to the Holiday Inn, but I wanted to scope out downtown Asheville first. I have heard of the many great restaurants and bars downtown and wanted to get a feel of the area since I'd be here for a few days.
The downtown area seemed to be a bit of condensed chaos. I wasn't thinking and realized that it was nearing rush hour so traffic was picking up. I figured I would make an easy circle of the main city center, but that didn't work out as planned. Trying to figure out the one way roads had me confused, but sitting at red lights that seemed to last forever gave me plenty of time to contemplate my next turn. I eventually just got frustrated with the whole area and made my way to the hotel. I got a good deal on Hotwire and was hoping for the best with the Holiday Inn. When I saw a Buffalo Wild Wings was within walking distance, I knew I had made a good choice.
I originally thought I'd get started on the recaps on the first two games I had seen, but after waking up so early I just relaxed and waited until it was time to head to the evening session. I knew I'd have to leave ahead of time to get another good parking spot since the host UNC-Asheville would be playing High Point in the first game of the session. I figured I would have to pay again to park, but when I made it back to the campus, the parking attendant remembered me and let me in with no charge.
I was half expecting a sellout crowd, but was surprised that Kimmel Arena was only half full. The students did their part by filling their designated sections, but I guess the residents of Asheville were waiting until the later rounds to come out to support the Bulldogs.
UNCA rode the home court to an early lead with a 10-3 advantage. Matt Dickey was hitting 3's and Chris Stephenson was doing his part down low. The Panthers didn't want to fade away from the onset though and made sure their presence was known when Shay Shine and Devante Wallace hit 3's of their own to take the 14-12 lead. High Point brought their band and to go along with the fans that made the visit, they were very loud whenever HP made a surge.
Asheville would retake the lead, but not by much since both teams started to lock down on D and points because tough to get. High Point would go nearly 5 minutes without a field goal, but Asheville was having their shooting woes as well. The score was tied at 23 with 4 minutes to go in the half before the Bulldogs took control. Jeremy Atkinson scored 5 straight and a buzzer beater from Stephenson had UNCA up by 9 at the half.
If High Point was going to keep pace with the Bulldogs, then Nick Barbour was going to have to have a good scoring night, but he ended up struggling from the field with a 2-17 performance. Shine and Wallace did what they could to keep the Panthers in it, but a string of turnovers led to Asheville extending its lead. HP only had 11 turnovers the whole game, but the 22 points the Bulldogs made off of them were telling of how the game went.
The lead went into the 20's for Asheville and HP seemed to be getting frustrated. They ended up getting two technicals called on them, and while the calls may have been questionable they ended up having two flagrant fouls on them as well.
The result wasn't in doubt about midway through the half and the Big South tournament wasn't exactly filling the excitement meter with three out of three blowouts without much drama. In the meantime I was just looking around noticing random things while the game wore down. I noticed LaPhonso Ellis was in the house, most likely to announce for ESPN for the semifinals and championship as he has done for the Big South in years past. Since he was easily the tallest guy on press row, he was the only one on press row with his feet sticking out from underneath the table.
As the game got down to the final minutes, Asheville had cleared its bench and several little used players got to see some tournament action. There was a breakaway dunk by Corey Littlejohn that really got the crowd going. Asheville ended up with a 25 point win and looked every bit as worthy of the #1 seed that they earned. It was tough loss for HP to end the season with and I was hoping Barbour could close out his career on a better note. The majority of the crowd that showed up to see their Bulldogs filed out, but I stayed since there was one quarterfinal game left to go.
at NORTH CAROLINA-ASHEVILLE 86, HIGH POINT 61 02/29/2012
HIGH POINT 13-18 (8-10) -- C. Hinkle 3-10 2-2 9; N. Barbour 2-17 2-2 7; S. Shine 7-15 7-8 22; C. Law 3-6 2-4 8; D. Wallace 4-8 1-2 12; B. Mikulic 0-1 0-0 0; J. Simms 1-1 0-0 2; J. Cheek 3-5 0-0 7; T. Elliott 0-0 0-0 0; X. Martin 0-0 0-1 0; Q. Drye 0-0 0-0 0; T. Duncan 1-1 0-0 2; L. Harris 0-1 1-2 1. Totals 21-55 13-19 61. NORTH CAROLINA-ASHEVILLE 22-9 (16-2) -- J. Atkinson 4-8 7-9 16; J. Primm 3-8 7-8 15; M. Dickey 2-8 5-6 11; C. Stephenson 7-11 4-5 18; J. Lane 4-9 5-8 13; Q. Jackson 2-2 1-4 5; T. Meyer 0-2 0-0 0; K. Hornsby 1-2 0-1 2; C. Littlejohn 1-2 0-0 2; J. Harn 1-1 0-0 2; J. Nwannunu 0-0 0-0 0; M. Davis 0-0 0-0 0; C. Pal 0-0 0-0 0; J. Roberts 0-0 0-0 0; J. Seligson 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 26-54 29-41 86.
Three-point goals: HP 6-24 (N. Barbour 1-8; J. Cheek 1-3; S. Shine 1-7; D. Wallace 3-5; B. Mikulic 0-1), UNCA 5-20 (C. Stephenson 0-1; J. Primm 2-6; M. Dickey 2-5; J. Lane 0-3; T. Meyer 0-2; J. Atkinson 1-2; K. Hornsby 0-1); Rebounds: HP 28 (C. Law 8), UNCA 36 (J. Atkinson 8); Assists: HP 7 (J. Simms 3), UNCA 16 (J. Primm 6); Total Fouls -- HP 28, UNCA 18; Fouled Out: HP-None; UNCA-None.