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UNC Asheville's Andrew Rowsey scored 24 points, Jaron Lane added 22 and the Bulldogs held off a late Charleston Southern rally to defeat the Bucs, 82-71, at Kimmel Arena on Wednesday night.
CSU (11-15, 5-8 BSC) trailed 66-43 with 11:57 remaining before responding with a 14-0 run to close within nine in a span of just 3:09. The Bucs would come within 75-67 on a Matt Kennedy layup at the 3:02 mark, but it was too little too late.
Asheville (14-13, 8-5 BSC) took control of the game with a 25-3 run to end the first half. The extended spurt turned a 23-20 CSU lead into a 45-26 halftime deficit, and the Bulldogs enjoyed a double digit advantage for most of the rest of the contest.
CSU senior Sheldon Strickland tallied 18 of his game-high 26 points after intermission to lead the Bucs' late charge. Will Saunders chipped in 14 and Kennedy had 12, but the Bucs struggled offensively for much of the night with junior point guard Saah Nimley unavailable due to injury. CSU shot only 24 percent from the floor in the first half and committed ten turnovers, and finished the game shooting just 34 percent.
Asheville appeared ready to turn the contest into a laugher when Corey Littlejohn made a layup for a 66-43 lead, but six different CSU players scored during a 14-0 run that made the Bulldogs work for victory.
Strickland started the surge with one of his five threes on the night, and the Bucs strung together a couple of defensive stops to work their way back into the game. Will Saunders buried a left wing three in transition to cut the Asheville lead to 66-55, and Kennedy hit two free throws to cap the surge and suddenly put the Bucs down by only nine.
The Bulldogs would build their lead back to 13, only to see the Bucs respond again. Strickland banked in a three from the top of the key, and Kennedy connected on a mid-range jumper and a baseline drive to bring the tally to 75-67. Lane sank a tough running jumper toward the end of the shot clock on Asheville's next possession, however, and the Bulldogs did enough down the stretch to prevail.
CSU struggled shooting the ball throughout the first half, but still had the lead at the 6:48 mark largely due to its rebounding effort. The Bucs enjoyed a healthy rebounding margin for much of the opening stanza, and finished the night with a 45-39 edge on the glass against a considerably bigger Bulldogs' team. CSU also posted a 16-8 advantage in second chance points, as a result of 16 offensive rebounds.
A layup for Asheville center D.J. Cunningham on the game's first possession opened the scoring. Saunders put CSU on the board just over two minutes into play, as he buried a corner three from in front of the Asheville bench off dribble penetration by Strickland.
Asheville opened up an 11-5 lead on a layup by Rowsey, but CSU pushed ahead 12-11 with seven straight markers. Strickland hit his first trey of the night, Harper swished a jumper and Kennedy glided to the basket for two to give CSU the lead.
Much of the first half was back and forth in nature, as the Bucs still led 23-20 on a Strickland fast break layup with 6:48 left until halftime. Littlejohn knocked down a three from the right wing on Asheville's next trip down the floor, though, jumpstarting a 25-3 run to give the Bulldogs command of the game.
Rowsey and Cunningham got the bulk of the run started at the free throw line, and a layup by Rowsey and a Cunningham tip-in quickly escalated the advantage to 40-26 at the 1:49 mark. Lane drilled a triple moments later, and Jaleel Roberts hit a pair of free throws to conclude the first half scoring.
CSU wraps up a three-game road trip at Presbyterian on Saturday. Tipoff in Clinton, S.C. is set for 7 p.m.