With every team winning yesterday in the SoCon that was expected to, the pressure is on Appalachian to go on the road and win its third conference game of the season. The Mountaineers have played well on the road this season in stretches, but way too many games have been lost when Appalachian struggles to score for several minutes at a time. The list of those games gets longer each week, with Elon being the newest member. Appalachian would be in real good shape if they could have won just one of the games against Chattanooga, Western Carolina, Elon and Samford; all games where they had leads in the second half before letting the game slip away.
The standings above are of the SoCon North Division, which will most likely make up the 3-8 seeds in the SoCon Tourney. The difference between the second third and fourth seeds are quite amazing. The second seed in the north gets a first round bye. The third seed in the North, now likely the fifth seed will fall into the Davidson bracket, and play mostly afternoon games. The six seed will likely land in the Charleston bracket, and play mostly night games.
Greensboro is one of the trickiest teams in the league. They have arguably two of the best players and can be very streaky at times The Spartans are favored by 4.5 points today which is a larger spread than the 4 points we saw yesterday. This is a really tough one to call. Can Appalachian finally figure out how to close a game on the road? Is Greensboro that much better than Appalachian at home on a Sunday, where the building will be basically empty?
Appalachian jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the opening minutes, but slowly allowed the Spartans to climb back into the game. Greensboro led by one point at the 5:52 mark of the first half, but that would be their largest lead of the game. Appalachian looked to take a six point lead into the halftime break before Nathan Healy appeared to have the ball poked out of his possession near half court. The official who was out of position and did not see the ball deflect off the Greensboro defender called a back court violation. It was on obvious missed call. On the ensuing possession, Healy fouled while trying to set an aggressive trap at halfcourt. Healy then quickly earned a technical foul for what appeared to choice words directed at the official. Suddenly, Healy had three fouls, and Greensboro converted four free throws to pull the lead to two at halftime.
I can understand Healy being frustrated over a missed call, and can certainly see the frustration foul coming, but a senior needs to set a better example, and not allow his temper to get the better of himself. That was a huge turning point, putting the Spartans on the line for two technical free throws and the one and one, which turned a six point lead to two without the clock rolling. I could see myself being equally upset, but the technical foul was unnecessary.
In the second half, the Mountaineers fought off several Spartan attempts for a rally. Five times the Mountaineers only led by a point in the second half and three times the scored was tied in the game’s final frame. The scored was tied at 53 all with just 6:22 to play, and the Mountaineers outscored the Spartans 23-15 in those final minutes. Over half of the Mountaineers 44 second half points came in the final third of the second half. That is something we have seen all season. Appalachian can go several minutes without a point or score close to four points a minute during certain runs. This up and down scoring will eventually lead to their demise in the SoCon tournament.
Jay Canty had an amazing game with 17 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 assists. Canty was able to use his size advantage against the smaller wings from UNCG to get in the post for several easy buckets. Mike Neal had another awful game shooting, but battled through it for 10 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists. Michael Obacha hit all of his field goal attempts and was solid again from the free throw line hitting five of eight attempts for 11 points and 8 rebounds.
It was a big win for the final road game of the regular season. The fourth seed and bye in the SoCon tourney is still up for grabs. However it may be more beneficial for Appalachian to avoid Davidson in the SoCon Tourney. We believe their chances of winning the tournament are higher by avoiding Davidson, even if it means playing an extra game. However, you may wonder how Appalachian’s short bench could handle playing four games in as many days. The Mountaineers are certainly going to need some help. In the meantime, Appalachian closes with Citadel, Samford and Chattanooga all at home in the next two weeks. Those teams are a combined 7-30 on the road this season. The Samford game will most likely decide whether Appalachian can jump up and grab the fourth seed.