Chapel Hill, N.C. - Dean E. Smith Center
2 p.m., TV - FSN
"North Carolina is one of the best teams in the country,. There's a pretty good chance they'll be playing in Atlanta at the end of the season. They have size, talent, depth and are very quick. They're also well-coached by Roy Williams. Obviously, we're going to have to be at our very best to have a chance to compete on Saturday." -- UNCA head coach Eddie Biedenbach
Season to Date: Having lost five starters, expectations were not high coming into this season for UNC Asheville. And after a season-opening win, the Bulldogs dropped four straight and have since bounced back to bring a 4-5 record into Saturday's game. Their four wins are over Montreat, Lenoir-Rhyne, Furman and Tusculum. Their five losses are against Western Carolina, Duquesne, Virginia, Eastern Kentucky and Charlotte. The highlight among the losses was a competitive showing at Charlotte, where the Bulldogs shot 52% from the floor and outscored the 49ers in the second half. That shooting performance was rare, however, as UNCA is shooting at a 43% clip on the season. They are also getting outrebounded often, including a 38-20 deficit against Charlotte. UNCA's 4-5 mark is actually the program's best start in six years.
Who Else?: Head coach Eddie Biedenbach is looking for more players besides just Smithson to step to the forefront. He's got a candidate in K.J. Garland, a 6-1 junior, who scored 26 points and nine rebounds against Tusculum last weekend. Another potential go-to scorer is Vincent James, a 6-7 JuCo transfer who put up 22 points against Furman.
Twin Towers: The Bulldogs have two seven-footers on the roster. There's 7-1 C.J. Walker, a junior, and 7-6 Kenny George, a sophomore. Walker is averaging nearly 15 minutes a game and is already the school's all-time leading shot blocker. Along with his 2.3 blocks per game this season, he's also averaging 3.5 points and 2.4 rebounds. George, who is the tallest player in the nation and also weighs 335 pounds, has only played in one game this season -- recording five blocks against Virginia -- but has sat out the rest of the season thus far with injuries. He's listed as "questionable" for Saturday's game.
Heel on the Bench: Trip Cogburn, a 2002 UNC graduate, is an assistant on the Bulldogs staff. Cogburn, now in his fifth year working at UNCA, has duties that include film responsibilities and scouting.
Last Year's Matchup: In last season's December matchup at the Smith Center, the Tar Heels opened up a 33-point halftime lead and went on to beat UNCA, 89-47. The UNC defense held the Bulldogs to dismal shooting numbers -- 29.7% FG, 13.3% 3pt -- and Tyler Hansbrough tied a Smith Center record with eight steals.
Series History: North Carolina is 3-0 in its all time series against UNC Asheville. Before last season, the prior two meetings were at UNC in 1994 and at UNCA in 1995. Roy Williams also posted a 3-0 record against UNCA while he was at Kansas. The Bulldogs have never beaten an ACC team -- they are 0-43 entering Saturday's contest.
Background Location: Asheville, N.C. Enrollment: 3,500 Conference: Big South Nickname: Bulldogs Colors: Royal Blue & White Head Coach: Eddie Biedenbach Record at UNCA: 131-157 (4th year) Last Year: 9-19 (6-10)
Projected Starters: 2 K.J. Garland (6-1, 180, Jr.) – 10.6 ppg, 3.5 apg 10 Bryan Smithson (6-0, 175, Jr.) - 16.2 ppg, 2.7 apg 20 Reid Augst (6-6, 200, So.) – 6.0 ppg, 2.6 rpg 44 Joey Harrell (6-7, 215, Sr.) – 6.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg 1 Brett Warner (6-10, 235, Jr.) – 5.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg Key Reserves: 24 Vincent James (6-7, 200, Jr.) – 11.0 ppg 11 Donovan Jones (6-0, 185, Fr.) – 5.1 ppg 15 Sean Smith (6-6, 195, Fr.) – 4.4 ppg, 3.3 rpg 55 C.J. Walker (7-1, 270, Jr.) – 3.5 ppg, 2.4 rpg 4 Garrett Moles (6-7, 215, Jr.) - 2.6 ppg, 1.9 rpg