UNC Asheville opens conference play with 85-79 win over Campbell

Ahmad Thomas celebrates UNC Ashevilles win over Campbell (WMYA).jpg

WLOS - New Year's Eve was was still more than 48 hours away, but Nick McDevitt issued a challenge to his UNC Asheville Bulldogs team on Friday. He asked his guys to make a New Year's Resolution on the eve of their Big South opener against the Campbell Fighting Camels. "I said, 'Everyone's going to make them on January 1st or December 31st," McDevitt said. "We need to make ours on December 29th and December 30th to get locked in to the rest of this season. "

The Bulldogs responded by closing 2017 with a win, outlasting the Fighting Camels 85-79 at Kimmel Arena. "You definitely like to start out league play with a good home win," McDevitt explained after the game. "If you're going to have a chance to win your league in the regular season, you've got to win all your home games." The Bulldogs are 30-4 at home over the last three seasons, including a 6-0 start to the 2017-18 campaign.

The Bulldogs trailed by as many as nine in the game, sitting in a 20-11 hole at the 12:18 mark of the first half. Senior Ahmad Thomas jump-started the blue and white, finishing the night with a dazzling stat line: 24 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists. "Conference games are hard. He of all people knows that and just watching him over the last couple days in practice and then in warm-ups tonight you could see that there was a different edge about him," McDevitt reflected after the game.

The Bulldogs placed five in double-figures, including MaCio Teague who chipped in 14. Teague was forced to check out at the 13:52 mark of the first half when he picked up his second personal foul. He didn't return until the second frame, which incidentally paid dividends down the stretch. "The nice thing was, he was pretty fresh because of foul trouble in the first half," smiled McDevitt. "So in the last three minutes we felt like he was well rested to get open, to get the ball." Teague scored nine points over the final 4:13 to help seal the deal for the Dogs.

Campbell hung in the game thanks to a 25 points effort by guard Chris Clemons, who shot 50% from inside the arc and 3-of-8 from beyond it. "You just have to make his catches difficult. He's one of the best offensive players we'll see all year, one of the best offensive players in the country," McDevitt praised the 5'9 junior. "He was having to work to get the ball back and having to expend some energy just to get it." Clemons came into the contest ranked 10th in the country in scoring at 23.2 points per game.

With one final victory in 2017, the Bulldogs turn their attention to 2018. Asheville is back in action on Wednesday, January 3rd at High Point, then head to Radford on the 6th, before returning to Kimmel Arena to host Longwood on the 9th.

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