Teague's late heroics pull UNCA to 66-64 win over Radford
WLOS - There are times when an opponent knows it's coming but can't do anything about it. When a player hits "the zone", no amount of hands in their face, bumping on cuts, or situation can control the rhythm. Such was the case in the final two minutes of the UNC Asheville game against conference foe Radford. With the Bulldogs down seven, MaCio Teague sank three 3-pointers to go on a solo 9-0 run to push UNCA by Radford, 66-64. "He always has the green light," said head coach Nick McDevitt after the game. "His shot selection is good. There are nights when he's feeling it and he knows it, I know it, everyone in the building knows it but he doesn't just start jacking shots." Teague was an efficient 5-for-9 from the field, including 3-for-6 from 3-point range.
The game was the loop around contest for the two Big South teams. They played more than a month earlier in Virginia where the Highlanders walloped the Bulldogs by twenty points. Early on it looked like UNCA was going to return the favor. The 'Dogs jumped out to a 19-8 lead just over eight and a half minutes into the game, a run bookended by a pair of Raekwon Miller 3-pointers. Miller led all scorers with 17, adding 6 assists.
The Highlanders answered with a 14-4 run over the next five minutes to draw within one, then took a three point lead at the 4:09 mark. Asheville then closed out the half on a 10-2 spurt to take a 42-36 lead into the locker room. "I thought it was just a game of runs for both teams," noted McDevitt.
Radford took the lead with 5:25 left in the contest, pushing it to a seven point advantage with 2:07 left. While many thought it was desperation time, Teague calmly took control. His first three came at the 1:52 mark. He tacked on another one :40 later to draw the Bulldogs within one. After Carlick Jones missed a jumper on the other end, Asheville came down the court with about :25 left on the game clock. Kevin Vannatta hit Teague on the wing, and he took two dribbles to force his man back before lofting a fall away three that hit nothing but net with three seconds left on the clock. The Highlanders last attempt bounced harmlessly off the iron and the Bulldogs escaped with a 66-64 win. "I wouldn't necessarily say I feel a difference, I just try to go out there and play every game the same way, shoot every shot the same way as if it is a game-winner," said Teague about finding his zone.
Teague finished with 14 points in the game, joined in double figures by Miller, Ahmad Thomas with 13, and Vannatta with 11. Ed Polite, Jr. paced Radford with 16.
The Bulldogs may not have needed the last second heroics had it not been for Radford's domination on the boards. The Highlanders out-rebounded Asheville 36-24 and tallied 20 second chance points. "They're big and athletic. They just are," said McDevitt. "That's what Coach [Mike] Jones recruits to, that's their strength as a team."
While RU may have had size on their side, the Bulldogs had strength in numbers; namely the 2,012 blue and white clad fans that made their presence known late in the game. "Having a crowd like that today helps. I'm telling you those last couple minutes I could feel it, I know the players could feel it; those last couple minutes there was some volume," smiled McDevitt. "It just boosts your energy level that we needed to get some big stops down the stretch." UNC Asheville has now won 21 straight at Kimmel Arena, the third-longest home winning streak in the country.
UNCA improved to 18-9 on the year, including an 11-3 mark in the Big South that maintains their one-game cushion atop the standings. The Bulldogs host Liberty on Thursday before heading to Charleston Southern on Sunday.