Story by Chris Graham
You knew it as soon as the ball went out of bounds underneath the UNC-Asheville basket.
There were 12.8 seconds on the clock. The Bulldogs were down one.
Kenny George had sat the entire game – resting up after a tough week of games that included a win over South Carolina, a tough loss at North Carolina and a pair of Big South wins.
But he wasn’t going to be sitting this one out.
“A slight second” was UNCA coach Eddie Biedenbach’s answer to my question about whether or not he hesitated at all to bring the 7-7, 365-pound giant in for the play that eventually won the game at VMI on Saturday.
Guard K.J. Garland was the inbounds trigger on the play – initiating from the left side of the basket. George positioned himself directly in front of the basket and held his hands high over his head – he can dunk the ball without leaving his feet, to give you an indication of what that means in effect.
VMI forward Willie Bell, all 6-5 of him, tried to front George, but the effort was basically fruitless from the beginning.
“Credit them. That’s their weapon. He’s averaging almost a triple-double for the year, and I guess we held him to two points. But …” VMI coach Duggar Baucom said after the game.
Baucom said he had expected to see Biedenbach use George in that way if the situation were to ever presnt itself.
“We’d actually talked about that. We thought we’d face it. We didn’t think it would be the difference in the game,” Baucom said.
“You’ve got to do a good job denying the pass, and we didn’t do that. That’s about the only way to defend it. There’s not a whole lot to defend it. We’re like midgets beside him,” Baucom said.
Biedenbach, for his part, wasn’t making any apologies about using his weapon in what ended up being the play of the game.
“They have Reggie Williams all night long. We have one of our best players, we play him one second, and he was very effective for that time,” Biedenbach said.
As to why he sat George for all but what turned out to be six seconds of the 90-87 overtime win …
“He played awfully hard against South Carolina and North Carolina, and needed some rest. And then we had two big conference games at home, and we had to have him. And up here, how effective he’d be against VMI on a normal night, I don’t know. But we could always stick him in for out-of-bounds plays or simple things when we play again. Tonight I was thinking about doing that all night long – but then I said, No, let’s rest him the best we can,” Biedenbach said.
“He’s coming along great. Last year, when we played Virginia, he didn’t play the next five days. We missed a game, and practice, he couldn’t practice. You know, he’s just never been in this kind of shape. I don’t know if anybody’s in the VMI kind of shape. So this is the kind of game where we think about during the season, How much are we going to play him on this kind of night anyway?” Biedenbach said.
George, for what it’s worth, didn’t seem to like being rested. I looked over at him on the bench several times during the game, and even caught him engaged in a conversation with a UNCA fan behind the bench during one timeout where he waved his hand and stuck up a single index finger – as if to say, “My time will come.”
And it did.
“That’s a good play for us,” George said after the game, summing things up nicely. “There’s not much they can do.”
Chris Graham is the executive editor of The SportsDominion.