Longwood upsets UNC Asheville, 77-61, to advance to Big South Championship semifinals
Led by 18 points in a dominant performance from forward Leslie Nkereuwem, the fifth-seeded Lancers made a statement in their opening game of the 2021 Big South Championship with a 77-61 upset over fourth-seeded UNC Asheville in Monday night’s quarterfinal at Kimmel Arena.
The win earns Longwood (12-15) a spot in the league’s final four for the first time since 2015 and a trip to Thursday’s quarterfinals where they will face No. 1 seed and tournament favorite Winthrop (21-1) on the Eagle’s home court in Rock Hill, S.C.
Now just one win away from reaching the Big South Championship game, Longwood’s quarterfinal victory over the Bulldogs (10-10) is the latest milestone in the program’s three-year evolution under head coach Griff Aldrich. Coming off a regular season in which they won a school-record 10 Big South games, led the Big South in scoring defense, and finished the regular season winners of eight of their final 10 games, the 2021 Lancers also earned the program’s most lopsided Big South postseason win since joining the conference in 2012-13.
Fueling Longwood’s latest victory in that end-of-season surge once was a staunch perimeter defense that held UNC Asheville to a 4-of-21 shooting performance from behind the line. That marked the second-lowest three-point shooting clip of the season for the Bulldogs, who entered the tournament ranked No. 2 in the conference in three-point percentage and armed with the Big South’s top three-point shooter in Tajion Jones.
Longwood held Jones – also the Big South’s No. 5 scorer at 16.0 points per game – to just 14 points in his 37 minutes, frustrating him throughout behind the defensive-minded backcourt tandem of DeShaun Wade and Heru Bligen. Wade contributed on the offensive end as well with 17 points as one of Longwood’s four double-digit scorers, joining Nkereuwem, and Granlund and Munoz, who scored 10 apiece.
Nkereuwem led one of Longwood’s most dominant interior performances this season, as the Lancers bullied their way to 54 points in the paint and converted 14 offensive rebounds into 20 second-chance points. Nkereuwem was nearly perfect from the floor, connecting on 9-of-11 field goals and throwing down three dunks.
Game time for Longwood’s semifinal showdown against the Eagles, as well as ticket information, will be announced soon. The game will air on ESPN+ and WVHL 92.9 Kickin’ Country FM in Farmville.