UNC-Asheville had some believers Friday night. The Bulldogs were matched in what could be seen as a 2-15 NCAA Tournament-type game against North Carolina State.
And Asheville held the lead with three minutes remaining.
This was March-like, only it is November, and unlike in March, there isn't a reel of 30 games to plan off of. Yet it seemed that the Bulldogs knew just what they needed to do against North Carolina State.
Pressure the ball, get out in transition and keep the Wolfpack to one shot per trip. It was working.
Asheville grabbed 14 steals. They pushed the ball, and North Carolina State's transition defense was slow and unorganized. The rebounding was there.
But eventually the shots stopped falling for the Bulldogs. For almost four minutes, Asheville had just a single basket, a 3-pointer from Trent Meyer that pulled the team back within one. A streak that cold late in the game though was too much to overcome.
You could almost feel the air go out of the team when the Wolfpack reclaimed the lead for the first time since early in the second half. The magic was gone.
But the gameplan? That was perfect, and something that a lot of teams, especially Michigan who play the Wolfpack in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, could learn from. North Carolina State might be back and a contender for the ACC title, but there is a formula that works to beat them right now.
That formula might not work come January, after Mark Gottfried figures out how to close the holes in his team. But this is something that can be exploited right now.
The efforts of Jeremy Atkinson (28 points, six rebounds, five steals) and Keith Hornsby (23 points) were wasted in a sense. Maybe for the Bulldogs, but not for the rest of the country, looking for ways to defeat the Wolfpack.