Appalachian has played some of its best defense in the last week or so, and they will need another effort like the last few games to hold off Charleston. The Cougars are a very interesting team this season. After two years of being well below average, the Cougars have found some momentum and find themselves in sixth place in the SoCon. Charleston sits only a half game out of fifth place Samford, which would put them in great position in the tournament if they could get there. The top five seeds would have to play one fewer game to get to the conference final. Equally as interesting, if the Cougars finish 6th, which is most likely, they would potentially meet the third seed in the quarterfinals, which right now, would be Appalachian. The thought that these two teams could meet again in ten days makes this matchup even more intriguing.
In the first matchup of the season, Appalachian held on for an eight point win on the road, just a little over a month ago. Charleston was dominate on the offensive glass, with 25 for the game, something that has been a problem for Appalachian all season. Charleston only hit four of their thirty three point attempts and were 11/25 from the free throw line. Conversely, it was a game where Appalachian was successful shooting from long range, hitting six three pointers. Both shooting stats where the exact opposite of how both teams had played prior to their game. Add that Charleston has played well of late, and you have an opportunity for an upset here. Appalachian has only lost one home game this season, but have always been good for losing one game they should not have at home in the past. If Charleston can hit a few threes early it will give Appalachian a run for their money.
Even thought the final margin was nine points, Appalachian led by as many as nineteen points in the late second half while cruising to their eighteenth win of the season. Charleston battle with the Mountaineers early in a very physical contest that eventually took a toll on the Cougars. Forty-five fouls were called in the game, but Charleston’s key players took a bigger hit than did the Mountaineers. Appalachian was able to build its lead late in the second half, and was never really threatened for the remainder of the game.
The story of the game, and of the past couple weeks is the play of Kelsey Sharkey. She has shown more offensive skill recently than she has in her career. Sharkey takes high percantage shots, and has played to her strengths just about as well as Mountaineer. Against Charleston, Sharkey scored fourteen points and grabbed fourteen rebounds, while adding five blocks and three steals. Anna Freeman continued her run of strong defensive play. Anna has put up a double-double in four straight games. Her line was 18 points, 18 rebounds, 5 blocks and 5 assists. Anna has blocked 12 Cougar shots in two games this season, and has 13 of her 55 blocked shots this season in her last three games.