GAME NOTES: Coming off losses in opening-round action, the UNC Asheville Bulldogs and Norfolk State Spartans will get right back at it on Tuesday evening, as they square off in the consolation round of the NIT Season Tip-Off at Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Robert Jones' Spartans fell to 2-2 on the young season after a disappointing loss to ECU on Monday night, 76-74. Norfolk State dropped its season opener on the road at Texas Southern (95-83), but bounced back with a pair of home victories over Newberry College (115-85) and Virginia Union (92-84).
The Bulldogs are certainly looking at quite the challenge, as they begin the 2013-14 season under first-year head coach Nick McDevitt with eight straight road games. The team is 1-3 thus far, having dropped its first two games of the season to then top-ranked Kentucky (89-57) and Western Carolina (74-67), before outlasting College of Charleston (67-58 overtime) prior to this event.
The Spartans had a 50-16 edge in points in the paint, and created 24 points off 18 ECU turnovers, but allowed a 17-point second-half lead to evaporate and fell to the Pirates by two points in Durham. Pendarvis Williams, the MEAC Preseason Player of the Year, led the way in the loss with 18 points. Malcolm Hawkins was right behind with 16 points and eight rebounds.
The Spartans let one slip away Monday night, but are still putting up strong offensive numbers on the year, netting 91.0 ppg on .508 shooting efficiency. Hawkins and Williams have been a formidable duo. Hawkins is pouring in 21.8 ppg on .483 shooting, which includes 10-of-23 from behind the arc. Williams is shooting .533 from the floor in putting up 20.3 ppg. Rashid Gaston, who didn't play on Monday, was averaging 15.0 ppg and 9.3 rebounds per outing prior to this event.
The Bulldogs were simply overmatched in their bout with the sixth-ranked Blue Devils on Monday. The team trailed by 20 points at the half (48-28) and the Duke lead continued to grow over the final 20 minutes. Sam Hughes led the way in defeat with a career-high 16 points for UNC Asheville. Freshman David Robertson chipped in with 12 points, but leading scorer coming in, freshman Andrew Rowsey, struggled big time, going 1-of-7 from the floor and finishing with just two points in 33 minutes of action. The Bulldogs did force Duke into a season-high 16 turnovers, but shot just .333 from the field in the game, including a mere 4-of-14 from behind the arc.
Rowsey has been a top contributor right away for UNC Asheville. Despite his poor performance against the Blue Devils, the 5-10 youngster is averaging a team-high 15.3 ppg. Will Weeks is next in the scoring column (13.0 ppg), but is still sidelined with a knee injury suffered against Western Carolina. Center D.J. Cunningham has two double-doubles in four games this season and has been a force on the boards, grabbing 9.5 caroms per game.
Norfolk State allowed one to get away from them on Monday. That isn't likely to happen again considering the way Williams and Hawkins are playing at this time.
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