Appalachian travels to long time stat rival East Carolina tonight in the second game of a three games series with the Pirates. Appalachian and East Carolina agreed to a two and one agreement with Appalachian prior to last season, with Appalachian’s home game in the series being played last year at Time-Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte. East Carolina enters the contest at 3-0, fresh off a comeback win over UNC-Greensboro. The will be the Pirates final home game in a four game homestand to start the season as they hit the road to play Georgia State and Charlotte in the coming week. The Pirates other wins to open the season were against Washington & Lee and Methodist.
Miguel Paul leads a quartet of double digit scorers for the Pirates. Paul did not play in the team’s first two games due to a team suspension, but did score 24 points against UNCG. Paul played his first two seasons of college basketball at Missouri. Maurice Kemp is a lanky post player at 6’8 and 190 pounds. Kemp is a senior who has started all three games on the season and is averaging 18.7 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. Marshall Guilmette is a 6’10, 240 pound freshman who has averaged 10.7 points and 6.7 rebounds while playing roughly twenty four minutes per contest. Six players on the Pirate roster measure 6’8 or taller on a team that features five seniors and four juniors.
Against High Point and Campbell, the Mountaineers started the game slowly and never held a lead in either contest. Mountaineer opponents are shooting 55% from the field this season and 40% from behind the arc. Despite the Mountaineers averaging seven more rebounds per game, most of that difference has come on the offensive glass, where the Mountaineers have out-rebounded their opponents 47-23. It will be interesting to see what kind of lineup Jason Capel will put together against a much taller team in East Carolina. Is it possible there is a Brian Okam sighting tonight?
On to our in season game of picking a Vegas winner. This is the first game for Appalachian that has been lined this season, despite the Campbell game sneaking in as a pick’em. East Carolina was an 11.5 point favorite against UNCG, but failed to cover despite the come from behind win. Last year, Appalachian was 1.5 point favorite against ECU, but never came close to winning the game. East Carolina is a 14.5 point favorite tonight. Last year, Appalachian was really good on the road covering double digit spreads at the beginning of the season, with covers at Minnesota and North Carolina. However, Appalachian has been trounced by two lesser teams than East Carolina this season and I cannot become a believer in this team until I see it. The smart play goes to East Carolina covering the 14.5 points.
I am not going to pretend that I know alot about this game. Due to home women’s game, I was unable to listen to any radio or video of the game, so this will be a short recap.
Appalachian played much better than expected against what appears to be a better East Carolina team. Appalachian started quickly taking an early lead, that they would relinquish and never receover from. On several occasions throughout the first half, the Mountaineers were able to cut the deficit to two points, but were not able to tie the game or take the lead. Appalachian cut the lead to three points late in the second half, but could not get a defensive stop at the right time.
We called on senior leadership from Nathan Healy, and he has responded. After going scoreless against High Point. Healy has averaged 21 points and 8 rebounds his last two games. Jay Canty added a career high 25 points and grabbed five rebounds and added five assists. Canty was 9/11 from the free throw line. As a team Appalachian was 17/20 from the line.
Overall, six players scored all of the Mountaineer points. The same six players played 93% of the minutes. Michael Obacha started, only played eight minutes, but fouled out without taking a shot. Chris Burgess also saw his minutes decline severely on what appeared to be a coaches decision. Burgess was not in foul trouble, nor did he turn the ball over in his 14 minutes of play. Tevin Baskin grabbed ten rebounds in only 27 minutes of play and Jamaal Trice added ten points in 34 minutes off the bench. Both Baskin and Trice fouled out. Tab Hamilton shot poorly once again, managing one made basket on eight attempts. Hamilton is shooting 30% from two point range on the season. Brian Okam didnt leave bench.
Unfurtunately, I made the wrong call on the point spread. I overlooked Appalachian’s decent record in the last two seasons as a double digit road dog. The Mountaineers have now covered three of their last four games in that situation. Sounds like my pick is already made for Friday afternoon’s game against Virginia Tech. However, based on the UNCG-VT game from Monday Night, its possible we may not see a large spread. It is interesting that Appalachian and Greensboro will have had three common opponents this early in the season. Greensboro and Appalachian have both covered against East Carolina. Greensboro did not cover +5 against Virginia Tech, but it was most likely a bad overreaction line from the books. If I had to guess, Virginia Tech will be favored by 9.5, but would not be surprised to see a spread as high as 11.5. Regardless, we fall to 0-1 on the season, and hopefully the Mountaineers can put together two well played games in a row.