Just a little over a month ago, Appalachian and Davidson played a game exactly how most fans would see it, for one half. And suddenly, Davidson figured out the Mountaineers. The Wildcats went to a zone defense, and the Mountaineers were finished. Appalachian could not get in the paint, could not hit an outside shot, and allowed Davidson to run away from them. Not only did Davidson beat Appalachian, but they created a blueprint for the rest of the conference to follow. It was not rocket science by any stretch of the imagination. Davidson took away the strengths of the Mountaineer game. Appalachian’s strengths are getting open looks close to the basket, and hitting free throws when the defense gets overly aggressive. Appalachian is not a three-point shooting team. Statistics may show they shoot a high percentage from behind the arc, but the three is not a huge part of their offensive game plan.
Davidson took advantage of their size down low. Davidson is tall, but not extremely athletic. They can frusturate you as equally as their men’s team can. The Wildcats have been rolling through the SoCon, outside of a home loss to first place Chattanooga. Part of that is due to scheduling. Davidson has played the better teams in conference pla,y all at home thus far. Of their final nine games, five of them on the road are all against conference contending teams. Davidson not only visits Appalachian on Saturday, but also faces a three games in eight days road stretch against Chattanooga, Samford and Elon.
On the other hand, Appalachian’s three conference losses are all on the road. The Mountaineers spent January in a fog after losing to Davidson. They were beating teams they were supposed to, but it was not looking very pretty. The Mountaineers are buried in fourth place in the conference, three games behind Chattanooga, and two behind second place Davidson. Since losing back to back games at Samford and Chattanooga, Appalachian has won their last two games convincingly. They set the tone with tough defense which led to easy buckets. Look for more of that against Davidson. Anna Freeman has played much better the last two games than the previous ten or so and that is what this team needs to succeed.
Davidson can do something to Appalachian that no other team can in the conference. Their size can completely take Appalachian out of its game. The result all but eliminates Appalachian from regular season title contention. Davidson usually does not blow people out, and scores just enough points it seems to get away with a win. To say this game was poorly officiated does not describe the level of incompetence the officials showed. Outside of having zero control of the game from the start, two of the three looked overwhelmed from the start. Davidson was called for two fouls in the first half, and ten in the second half. The issue was that Davidson was called for five of those ten second half fouls in the final eight minutes of the game. Davidson was allowed to play with an aggressiveness that the Mountaineers were not afforded.
Complaining about 0fficiating usually is not very kosher in the blogosphere, but it was valid. Outside of inconsistent foul calls, there were timeouts granted to Davidson when they did not possess the ball, plenty of travelling violations that were called jumpballs and other inconsistencies. Davidson won the game getting to foul line eleven more times than the Mountaineers in a game that played sloppily on both sides.
Maryah Sydnor scored 18 points to lead the Mountaineers while Anna Freeman added 15 points. Anna Freeman was held to a season low three rebounds and was only 5/17 from the floor, including 3/12 from behind the arc. The twelve three point attempts were the most for Freeman on the season. Up next is Furman on Monday evening, a part of a double header with the men playing the Paladins following the women’s game at 5:30. Appalachian will now play for tournament seeding for the remainder of the season. Hopefully the Mountaineers can avoid Davidson until the final, if they can get there.