No. 16 NC State edges UNC Asheville 82-80

Jeremy Atkinson saw plenty of reason for optimism for UNC
Asheville even in a loss.

Atkinson scored a career-high 28 points in the Bulldogs’ 82-80
loss at No. 16 North Carolina State on Friday night, though UNC
Asheville led most of the way.

The Bulldogs have now lost five straight, including the past
three at the Puerto Rico Tipoff.

”We’re trying to gel and get our chemistry together,” Atkinson
said. ”We went to Puerto Rico and didn’t win a game but every
team, including N.C. State, will tell you that we play hard to 40
minutes. We’re not a pushover team even though we’re in the Big
South and a mid-major. We’re still a force to be reckoned with. We
were beating State for 38 minutes in Raleigh, which is pretty
hard.”

Atkinson hit 12 of 22 shots and pulled down six rebounds in 37
minutes. The Wolfpack tried at least three defenders on him during
the game, though he was quick enough to get by bigger defenders and
strong enough to outmuscle smaller ones inside.

Atkinson’s previous career high was 24 points in the
season-opening win against Western Carolina.

For N.C. State, Richard Howell scored 23 points, including the
go-ahead basket with 3:06 left. He finished with 15 rebounds and
also knocked down two free throws with 5 seconds left to secure the
win for the Wolfpack (4-1), who finally shook free of the Bulldogs
late after trailing most of the way.

UNC Asheville (1-5) led by seven with 8 1/2 minutes left before
N.C. State finally inched ahead, pushing in front when Howell
corralled a deflected pass and scored in the paint while drawing an
intentional foul.

Scott Wood added 14 points, including a pair of clutch jumpers
in the final 3 minutes that helped N.C. State hold on.

This looked like a game that would give N.C. State the chance to
regroup after a 20-point loss to Oklahoma State in the Puerto Rico
Tipoff championship game on Sunday. Instead, N.C. State’s struggles
continued against an aggressive and opportunistic bunch of Bulldogs
who wouldn’t go away.

While N.C. State shot 56 percent for the game, it committed 19
turnovers that UNC Asheville converted into 31 points.

After the Wolfpack took the 70-69 lead on Howell’s basket, Wood
followed with a straightaway jumper that pushed the lead to four.
Two possessions later, Wood answered a 3-pointer by Trent Meyer
with one of his own, losing Keith Hornsby around a screen on the
right wing to make it 76-72 with 1:16 left.

UNC Asheville got as close as 80-78 on a three-point play from
Hornsby with 16.5 seconds left, but Howell made it a two-possession
game with his free throws and the Bulldogs managed a meaningless
putback just before the buzzer to end it.

N.C. State improved to 18-0 all-time against UNC Asheville, led
by former Wolfpack player Eddie Biedenbach.