Final - OT
  for this game

UNC-Asheville edges UALR in NCAA tourney opener

Mar 16, 2011 - 3:40 AM Dayton, OH (Sports Network) - Matt Dickey sent the game to overtime with a three-pointer and J.P. Primm won it at the free throw line, as UNC-Asheville came back and beat Arkansas-Little Rock, 81-77, in the first game of the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

As many contests in March Madness are wont to do, this one came down to the wire.

Both Dickey and Primm scored 22 points for UNC-Asheville (20-13), and no shot was bigger than Dickey's step-back three from the left corner that tied the game, 72-72, with 10 seconds left in regulation at University of Dayton Arena.

Matt Mouzy's errant three-pointer off the back iron resulted in an extra five minutes, and the Bulldogs, who trailed by as many as 10 in the second half, held a 79-77 lead after Primm made 1-of-2 from the line with 51 seconds left.

Primm picked off Daylon Gay's soft pass along the right wing, then sealed the Big South champions' second-ever tourney win and a date with No. 1 seed Pittsburgh on Thursday in Washington, D.C.

The first-ever meeting between the programs was part of the new format for this year's NCAA Tournament, which now boasts 68 teams and starts with the "First Four" games on Tuesday and Wednesday. The opening game was played to decide the No. 16 seed in the Southeast Region.

"This is a great opportunity for us," Bulldogs head coach Ed Biedenbach said. "We're not going to lose the game or win the game because we're nervous playing Pitt, because we've played everybody. We've played four to seven of these kind of games every year."

Alex Garcia-Mendoza scored 21 points to lead Arkansas-Little Rock (19-17), while Solomon Bozeman, who made a late three-pointer to win the Sun Belt Conference Tournament title for the Trojans, scored 18 points before fouling out with a minute left in regulation.

"I have to give Asheville a lot of credit. They showed some toughness," UALR head coach Steve Shields said. "There's so much disappointment in our locker room ... [We] gave ourselves a chance to win."

Arkansas-Little Rock controlled the tempo for the first 13 minutes and twice held an 11-point lead. The second time came on a Bozeman free throw for a 27-16 cushion, but a D.J. Cunningham-led 13-2 spurt suddenly tied the game.

Jaron Lane's bucket gave UNC-Asheville a 33-31 edge with 1:12 to go in the opening half, but a three-pointer from D'Andre Williams and three-point conversion from Garcia-Mendoza gave UALR a four-point advantage at the break.

The Trojans scored on four of their first five possessions of the second half, pushing the lead to 47-38 on Williams' three-pointer 2 1/2 minutes in.

The margin was at least two possessions until the Bulldogs scored seven straight points to pull within 61-59 on Dickey's three-ball with 7:31 left.

Bozeman drilled a three from the right wing a little later to end a field goal drought that lasted six minutes, but UALR couldn't put the game away.

Garcia-Mendoza made two free throws with 2:34 remaining for a 72-68 lead, and it stayed that way until Lane made a free throw following Bozeman's fifth foul with 56.5 seconds showing.

Williams was off the mark for UALR, as was Primm at the other end. Cunningham, though, came up with an offensive rebound with time winding down, and Dickey launched the tying shot with a hand in his face.

"I thought J.P.'s was going down first, and when I saw D.J. hustle, got the rebound, we kicked it around, and I honestly didn't know how much time was on the clock," Dickey said. "I just did a move there that I've been working on in the off-season and it paid off."

Neither team led by more than a point in overtime prior to Primm's free throw with 51 seconds showing.

Game Notes

UNC-Asheville also won the opening round game of the NCAA Tournament in 2003, beating Texas Southern before falling to Texas...UALR was playing in its first NCAA Tournament game since 1990. Its lone win in the event came in 1986 in an upset over Notre Dame...Cunningham, who missed the last two games of the Big South Tournament with an ankle injury, had a game-high eight rebounds with six points before fouling out...John Williams chipped in 15 points for the Bulldogs, who made half of their 54 field goal attempts...Mouzy was just 1- for-10 from the floor, all from three-point range.