When Appalachian and Samford play on Monday Night, plenty will be on the line. The loser will have their third or fourth loss in conference play, and will have an extremely uphill battle if they plan on winning the conference battle. Samford has ended Appalachian’s conference tournament the last three years. The Bulldogs use a Princeton-style offense by shooting a lot of three pointers and spreading the ball out. They strive on hitting those three pointers and getting long rebounds. It does help Appalachian that their last opponent Chattanooga loves the three point shot as well, so despite the loss, it was good practice for Appalachian.
Samford is 9-9 on the season and has been known for their defensive prowess. They have only allowed 52.6 points per game. Samford had a season long streak of four games allowing under 50 points snapped after playing Davidson and Chattanooga, who 63 and 66 points respectively. In two games this season, they gave up less than thirty points. Samford is 6-2 at home this season, while all of Appalachian’s four losses this season have come on the road. Samford is led by Jazmine Martin and her 10.6 points per game. Hannah Dawson averages 7.1 rebounds per game, and 6.8 points per contest. Shelby Campbell scores 9.3 points per game. Six Samford starters have hit 14 or more three pointers on the season.
Anna Freeman continues to lead the Mountaineers in scoring (17.1) and rebounding (8.6). Anna also leads the team in blocks, steals and assists. Maryah Sydnor’s strong play of late has edged her ahead as the team’s second leading scorer at 14.8 points per game while she also adds 6.8 rebounds per game. Courtney Freeman rounds out the double digit scorers with 14.1 per game.
Appalachian dropped its second straight game in a row on the road as Samford hit a driving layup as time expired to propel the Bulldogs to a 66-64 win. Maryah Sydnor hit a long two point jumper with seven seconds remaining to tie the game at 64. Samford quickly inbounded and drove the length of the floor, beating the buzzer and giving the Bulldogs the win.
The first half was a mess as Appalachian trailed Samford by thirteen points, and only scoring twenty points in the first half. Samford was hitting their threes and knocking down their free throws, while Appalachian went without a three pointer for their third consecutive half. Samford recorded more assists in the first half than Appalachian did made field goals.
The second half was a different story, as the Mountaineers slowly began to trim away at the Samford lead. The Bulldogs went to a very conservative offensive approach, almost playing not to lose, and Appalachian dialed up the defensive pressure. The final stats will not tell the story of the game, as Appalachian made up ground in many categories. Appalachian eventually forced Samford into 27 turnovers and turned that into 31 points. The Mountaineers were also dominate in the paint, doubling up Samford 36-18. Appalachian made 23 field goals to the Samford’s seventeen. The difference however was on the free throw line. Twenty-five of Samford’s 66 points came on the free throw line, while Appalachian only managed making 16/25 from the free throw line. Samford also hit seven three pointers to only two for the Mountaineers.
Appalachian has now fallen in a huge hole, as they do not control their own destiny to contend for a conference title. They are going to need some help down the stretch, and luckily seven of their final eleven games will be played at home, where they have yet to lose. The Mountaineers must find a rhythm, because they are not firing on all cylinders this season and have not been for awhile. I believe they could play with a little more agression on the offensive end and attack the basket. They should use their great team free throw shooting to their advantage and get to the line thirty times a game. Force the opponent to react to you instead of playing so passively. Elon comes to to Boone on Saturday, and this a great time for Appalachian to reassert themselves in all aspects of the game. Elon is not a pushover, and is actually ahead of the Mountaineers in the conference standings. This team needs to get its swagger back, yeah I said that, and just get back to having fun and playing the game.