For the Appalachian women, this game is hard to consider a must win, since it is only the second conference game of the season, but this game means plenty for the team and coaches. Davidson was a favorite to win the conference this season after having a big season last year and sweeping the series with the Mountaineers last year. However Davidson has played a tough schedule outside of the conference and has struggled while playing many of their games on the road. Appalachian has won every game it has supposed to while falling only twice this season, on the road against teams from power conferences.
Both teams have defeated Georiga Southern at home to start conference play. Davidson knocked off the Eagles by twelve while Appalachian cruised to a thirty-two point win. Davidson (4-7, 1-0) was won both of its home games, but none by a convincing fashion. Davidson has scored 63 points once this season. That is the game they prefer to play, a possession oriented style. In fact, the Wildcats have managed sixty or more points in only three games this season. The way to beat Davidson is with Appalachian’s pressure, something they were unable to establish last year. Sophia Alexandravicious leads the team in points and rebounding and was a favorite for conference player of the year. Laura Murray is a capable guard, but Appalachian should be too much for Davidson tomorrow. Appalachian has been scoring points in bunches, and are a better team than last year at this point. Davidson is missing some pieces so I expect a Mountaineer win, which will be huge in the race for the conference title and conference championship seeding implications.
Appalachian allowed Davidson to creep back into the game one too many times in first half on Saturday, and it eventually led to their demise as the Wildcats rallied from a tied game at halftime, to win going away, 65-49. It was the fewest points Appalachian scored all season, with their previous low coming last weekend on the road at West Virginia.
Generally, when an officiating crew allows the teams to play, especially for Appalachian, it has been a good thing. On Saturday, against a Davidson team with slightly more size, a game with fewer fouls calls actually hurt the Mountaineers. It allowed Davidson to be more physical, and kept Appalachian off the free throw line. Appalachian leads the country in free throw percentage, which is a huge advantage, except when the Mountaineers only get to the line eight times like on Saturday. If you keep Appalachian off the line, you have neutralized a strength.
Davidson also switched to zone defense, which aided the fewer foul calls. Appalachian could not shoot out of the zone. The Mountaineers were 4/25 from behind the arc, and 2/16 in the second half, where Davidson switched to the zone defense exclusively. Not many teams can play zone against Appalachian, as most of the other teams in the conference do not have the size on the perimeter, to keep Appalachian out of its high post offense. Even in the zone, Davidson was able outrebound Appalachian by ten, which is another huge advantage. Davidson executed a great game plan and it worked. I do not think Davidson is more talented, but was able weaken the strengths of Appalachian. For the record, the Mountaineers shot 32% for the game, and commited 20 turnovers.
For the rest of the season, the Mountaineers will be chasing. They are the first contender in the conference with a loss in the SoCon play. Luckily Appalachian has some very winnable games until the run into the back to back games against Chattanooga and Samford. It has been a long time since Appalachian has lost two games in a row, and with class starting back in a week, I think the Mountaineers will get back into a groove. The holiday break in Boone can be tough on student athletes without many friends in town, the weather turning, and nothing but practice and once a week games on their schedules. This team thrives on repitition and games. It’s a dark spot for the season, but this team will it around.