Appalachian is in a very precarious spot. A win is highly needed and a very surprising Elon team is coming to town looking to steal a win from the reeling Mountaineers. Elon has jumped out to an 8-2 conference record, including a win over Chattanooga at home. The Phoenix hold a game and a half lead over Appalachian in the conference standings and currently sit in third place, only one game out of first place Chattanooga and Davidson. Elon is 3-6 on the road this season, one of the worst records on the road of SoCon teams. Their wins include at Western Carolina, Charleston and Wofford. Appalachian will easily be their biggest road test thus far in conference play outside of Davidson, who beat the Phoenix by fifteen last weekend.
Elon is led by Ali Ford, their senior guard who leads the conference in scoring at 17.1 points per game. Ford is quietly campaigning for player of the year honors by also leading the conference in free throw percentage and ranks second in three pointers made per game. Ford has had up and down games in her career against Appalachian, having never beaten the Mountaineers in seven career games. Ford will usually have a good half, but has rarely put together a complete game for Elon. If Ford is not on her game, Elon will have a hard time beating Appalachian. Kelsey Evans has also had a very nice season for Elon, averaging 14.2 points and 9.3 rebounds per contest.
Appalachian has been on somewhat of a slide for a couple weeks. They are still playing good basketball, but nowhere near their potential. That should point to how well Appalachian can play. Even though they have been playing below their expectations, Samford still needed a buzzer beater to win, and Chattanooga lost a thirteen point advantage before holding on. Appalachian’s toughest games this season have been on the road, so hosting Elon will be different for them. Elon will be Appalachian’s toughest home opponent this season.
Anna Freeman needs to become slightly more selfish with the ball. She is the best player in the conference, and has underachieved slighty this season. Playing against Ali Ford should give her all the motivation she needs to have a good game against the Phoenix. Appalachian will also need more production from the wing, including getting the perimeter game going with Katie Mallow and Farrahn Wood. The three pointers need to start falling so Appalachian can open up the defense and start hitting the paint with more consistency.
Darcie Vincent employed a bold strategy against Elon and it worked to perfection. Vincent went with Jessica Barrios to start at point guard in an obvious defense strategy that worked to perfection. We are pretty sure Barrios started her first career game, and spent most of the game smothering Elon star Ali Ford. Vincent then through off Ford by rotating Raven Gary and Michelle Taylor against Ford for the remainder of the game. That strategy could not have worked better. Ford picked up a technical foul during the game, that led to her fouling out with four minutes to play. By that time, the game was well decided, as Appalachian led the entire game. The Mountaineers shot the ball from all spots on the court 47% from the field, 50% from three, and 71% from the free throw line.
Ali Ford still managed to score her 18 points, but it was a very quiet night from her. Appalachian kept her getting hot from behind the arc, which is one of her biggest strengths. Eight of her eighteen points came on the free throw line, and she turned the ball over seven times. Outside of Ford, Elon could not find a second threat to score in Ford’s stead. No other Elon players scored in double figures, and the Phoenix could only manage shooting 30% for the game.
We were looking for Appalachian to involve Anna Freeman more in the offense, and they did. Freeman scored 26 points, her second highest total of the season, while also adding ten rebounds. It was the sixth double digit rebounding game of the season, and Anna’s fourth double-double of the season. The Apps are 4-0 this season when Freeman secures a double-double. Maryah Sydnor added 19 points and six rebounds while Kelsey Sharkey added 10 point and nine rebounds in 26 minutes.