Homecoming weekend at UNC Asheville provided the Bulldogs with two opportunities to get back on track heading into the Big South Conference tournament on Wednesday. Thursday night, coming off two consecutive losses, the Dogs righted the ship with a 71-61 win over Gardner-Webb and followed that up with a 67-55 victory over Winthrop on Saturday.
To make things even better for the No. 1 seeded Bulldogs, senior guard Matt Dickey was named Big South Player of the Year by the league coaches and members of a media panel throughout the league.
Dickey helped lead the Bulldogs to the Big South Conference regular-season title with a 16-2 BSC record. The 16 victories tied a league record for most wins.
He finished the regular-season as UNC Asheville’s leading scorer with a 16.9 average. He scored in double figures in 27 of the Bulldogs 30 games this season. He was second on the club in assists (109), steals (44), and three-pointers made (55). Dickey led Asheville in free throws (166) and free throw percentage (.862). His 16.9 scoring average was fifth in the league with his free throw percentage second best in the conference. He was eighth in the league in both assists (3.63) and steals (1.47). In conference games, Dickey averaged 17.1 points to rank fifth, and was second in free throw percentage at 86.9 percent. During the season he recorded his first career double-double in a key road win at Campbell on Jan. 12 with 19 points and 10 rebounds, and tied a school record with seven steals in a home win against the Camels on Jan. 28, in addition to a season-high 31 points.
“I’m really happy for Matt Dickey to receive this honor,” commented Asheville coach Eddie Biedenbach. “He is very deserving of this award. There are a lot of great players in the Big South Conference and this really speaks highly of the year Matt has had to be named Player of the Year. Matt is a hard worker and has been a wonderful leader for our team.”
Additionally, Dickey was named to the Big South All-Academic team for the third consecutive year.
Dickey’s roommate and fellow senior guard, J.P. Primm was named to the second team Big South All-Conference team. Primm is Asheville’s second leading scorer with a 14.9 average. He leads the team in assists (123), steals (56) and three-pointers made (65). The senior was fourth in the Big South in assists (4.10) and steals (1.87). He’s third in the league in free throw percentage at .828. In Big South Conference games, Primm averaged 16.4 points per game. He was named Big South Player of the Week and Mid-Major Player of the Week on Jan. 30 when he scored 30 points vs. High Point (Jan. 26) and 23 points vs. Campbell (Jan. 28).
The Bulldogs two games over the weekend positioned them very nicely for a run through the Big South Tournament which begins tonight with two games to decide which of the bottom four teams in the league get to play in the quarterfinals, which will be hosted by Asheville.
In Thursday’s win over Gardner-Webb, Jaron Lane had the first double-double of hit career, scoring 15 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Dickey added 16 points and Jeremy Atkinson finished with 13. Asheville had to fight all night to put the Runnin’ Bulldogs away.
“We found a way to win and that was good to see,” stated Asheville coach Eddie Biedenbach. “Gardner-Webb plays good defense and doesn’t make anything easy for you. It’s always a tough game with them whenever we play.
“What was good about tonight is that it was a lot like a tournament game,” added Biedenbach. “We played pretty good defense and did a nice job on the boards. Those are the kind of things you have to do to win tournament games.”
On Saturday, Asheville’s five seniors (Dickey, Primm, Chris Stephenson, Quinard Jackson and Jeremy Harn) were honored in pre-game ceremonies.
In another game featuring outstanding defense by the Bulldogs, Asheville (21-9, 16-2 BSC) came away with a satisfying 67-55 win over the rival Eagles.
The Big South Conference regular season champions also picked up their 21st win of the season, matching the most wins by a Bulldog program in the regular season in the schools Division I era.
In this contest, Primm was the leading scorer with 17 points, Dickey scored 12 and had four assists and Atkinson also had 12 points and added five assists.
Asheville is 12-2 at Kimmel Arena and went 8-1 in league games in their new venue. They are 22-2 against BSC opponents since the end of last season. Asheville will next play in the 6 p.m. game against either the 8 seed (High Point) or the 9 seed (Gardner-Webb). Asheville will host the quarterfinals and semifinals at Kimmel Arena, and, should the home team advance to the final game, it also would be played in the friendly confines of the new arena.