ASHEVILLE, NC – Sean Smith scored 20 points and knocked down six 3-pointers as UNC Asheville downed Winthrop 66-53 before a close to sell-out crowd of 1,076 at Justice Center Thursday night.
The victory gave Bulldog coach Eddie Biedenbach his 110th Big South Conference win and made him the league’s all-time winningest coach in regular-season conference games.
Asheville (7-12, 4-4 BSC) won its fourth straight, while the visiting Eagles (8-10, 4-4 BSC) had a three-game winning streak snapped.
Matt Dickey contributed 11 points for the Bulldogs. He also had six assists and six rebounds.
“I’m just happy we won the game and beat a good Winthrop team,” said Biedenbach afterwards. “The record is nice but I’ve gotten the record because I’ve had some great players and some great assistant coaches.”
Winthrop was led by Mantoris Robinson with 11 points, while Matt Morgan finished with 10 points. Andy Buechert had a game-high 11 rebounds.
Smith helped break the game open for the Bulldogs in the second half. The senior guard knocked down four straight 3-pointers as Asheville built a 44-34 lead at the 15:48 mark. The Bulldogs scored six more points after Smith’s barrage to build the lead to 50-34 as Chris Stephenson scored on a tap-in and freshman center D.J. Cunningham hit two lay-ups. The second put Asheville up 16 at 50-34 with 10 minutes left. Winthrop went seven minutes without a basket.
The Eagles clawed back in the game with strong inside play and some three-pointers. A trey from Robbie Dreher at the 4:39 mark cut the lead to 56-49.
Asheville led 60-53 with two minutes left and the Eagles had a chance to get closer but misfired on a three-point attempt. The Bulldogs were able to get an offensive rebound and Smith sealed the victory with a long trey from the right corner to put the home team in front 63-53 at the 1-minute mark.
The Bulldogs held Winthrop to just 33 percent shooting (21-of-63) from the field. The Eagles also had a tough time from long distance as they shot just 21 percent (4-of-19). Smith also had six assists and three steals. Cunningham came off the bench and had nine points and four blocked shots. John Williams had eight points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots.
“I thought our guys played hard for 40 minutes tonight and that’s what we knew it would take to beat a team like Winthrop,” said Biedenbach. “We did a great job on defense and Sean Smith got hot for us in the second half. Sean played a fine overall game, as well.”
Asheville shot 48 percent (28-of-59) from the field and 43 percent (6-of-14) from long distance. The Bulldogs were 5-of-8 from beyond the arc in the second half.
Asheville stays at home to play Presbyterian Saturday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. The Eagles travel to Gardner-Webb on Saturday.