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.