ASHEVILLE, N.C. (www.BigSouthSports.com) - Top-seeded UNC Asheville wrapped a 24-7 run around half-time and went on to defeat Charleston Southern 91-64 Thursday night in the semifinal round of the Advance Auto Parts Big South Championship at Kimmel Arena.
The defending Big South champion Bulldogs (23-9) will host seventh-seeded VMI (17-15) in Saturday's final, which will start at 12:00pm. on ESPN2. VMI defeated sixth seed Winthrop 75-55 in Thursday's first semifinal.
J.P. Primm scored 13 of his 27 points during the decisive burst and Asheville stretched a 7-point lead to as many as 32.
Primm led four Bulldogs in double figures on 8-of-13 shooting, including 4-of-8 threes and 7-of-8 from the line. Jeremy Atkinson added 19 (11-11 free throws), plus eight rebounds. Chris Stephenson chipped in 18 and Matt Dickey 10 for Asheville, which shot 49 percent from the field and made 28-of-30 free throws (.933).
Saah Nimley led fourth-seeded Charleston Southern (19-12) with 20 points on 6-of-12 shooting, including 4-of-7 threes, plus 4-of-5 from the line. Senior forward Kelvin Martin, the League's Defensive Player of the Year, added 15 points on 7-of-10 from the floor, five rebounds and three blocks.
Asheville converted 18 Charleston Southern miscues into a 30-10 advantage in points off turnovers. The Bucs hit 11-of-28 threes (.393), but went to the line only 11 times (making seven). Asheville finished with a 34-16 edge on points in the paint.
With Dickey, the Big South Player of the Year, sitting out the final 7:58 of the opening half with two personal fouls, his senior back court running mate Primm scored 11 of his 13 first-half points in the final 6:34 of the period.
A 9-0 run gave the Bulldogs a 24-12 lead with 9:37 to play, but the Bucs rallied and drew within five (26-21) on Martin's backdoor cut with 7:01 left.
Asheville led 44-31 at the break, thanks to 57 percent shooting from the field and a 26-10 edge on points in the paint. Atkinson joined Primm in double-digits during the first half with 11 points.
Charleston Southern hit 40 percent of its shots in the opening period, 4-of-11 threes. Martin (11) and Nimley (10) accounted for 21 of CSU's 31 first-half points.
Martin moved into sole possession of third-place on the League's career rebounding list (968) and finished his four-year career as the sixth-leading scorer in Charleston Southern history (1483).
UNC Asheville Head Coach Eddie Biedenbach
"No doubt, this was a big, big game for us ... 16-2, 20 wins, all of that, you throw it out at tournament time... This was a defensive win for us, even with 91 points ... We did an outstanding job defensively ... We lost a little bit of our attitude a little while ago, but after the BracketBuster game, we focused on getting that attitude back ... With our six seniors, we felt like we had an advantage. Tournament time is different for freshmen... Matt (Dickey) had a kind of tough day today. But he and JP (Primm) always pick each other up. They thrive off each other."
Charleston Southern Head Coach Barclay Radebaugh
"Asheville seemed like a team on a mission tonight. They were more aggressive than we were ... We competed hard, but we missed a lot of shots we normally make ... It was frustrating. Our team is better than that. There was a level of frustration. We got great shots that didn't go in ... This was a difficult situation for a young team, to play a senior-laden team on their home court... A key for us now is consistency. Can we stay consistent in our program and in the Big South?"