Our wrapup of the basketball season will be coming soon. The season for both teams was full of many highs and lows and you will not want to miss these articles, which will include backflashes from the seasons, from non-conference play to the conference tournament, while we also peer into the future of Appalachian basketball in 2013-14.
Appalachian and Charleston played a really close game until the final few minutes when Appalachian’s pressure finally got to Charleston. Appalachian was in control for much of the game, but could never really extend their lead in the first half. Charleston led by a point on one occasion, but Appalachian quickly regained the lead. For much of the game, the Mountaineers led by just under ten points as Charleston hung around as long as they could.
The Cougars were still in the game with 2:09 remaining, as they only trailed by six points. The Mountaineers would finish the game on a 8-0 run to mark the final tally at 74-60. Six of those eight points came at the free throw line via Maryah Sydnor and Anna Freeman. Bria Huffman hit a basket as well in that final run by the Mountaineers.
Anna led all scorers with 23 points and added ten rebounds. Maryah Sydnor scored 17 points and added a half dozen rebounds. Raven Gary added 14 points, six rebouns and four assists. Courtney Freeman chipped in eleven points. Three Mountaineers, Sydnor, Anna, and Courtney accumulated twelve of the nineteen Appalachian fouls as all three were called for four. Charleston threw up another twenty three point attempts, and were mostly unsuccessful, hitting only five of them. The Cougars attempted 28 more shots than Appalachian, and the Mountaineers turned the ball over 13 more times than their opponent.
Appalachian gave up 20 offensive rebounds to Charleston, and must clean that up if they want to beat Chattanooga. The Mocs pounded Appalachian just eight days ago at home. The key to beating the Mocs is playing good perimeter defense and getting in the face of the Mocs three point shooters. Appalachian must also be very aware of Chattanooga’s post players, and do everything they can to limit the Mocs to one shot on the offensive end. Appalachian and Chattanooga will face off at noon on Sunday.
(We made the tough decision and attended the men’s game on Saturday)
Appalachian jumped all over a tired Furman team in the first half and never looked back. Appalachian used a 7-0 run the jump out to an 18-7 lead early in the first half. Moments later, a 10-2 run by Appalachian up by seventeen points, a lead they would two more times in the first half before heading to the locker room with a fourteen point halftime lead. Appalachian used active hands on the defensive end, something we had not seen all year long. Their hands were in the passing lanes on the wings, and once the ball was tipped, the Mountaineers were off and running for easy fast break points.
Furman cut the lead to five points at 38-33 early in the second half, but Appalachian once again answered with a huge run, another 7-0 run, that put that back up by double digits with 16:17 to play in the game. Furman would once again cut the lead back down to single digits at 47-40, before Appalachian finally put the Paladins away. Over the next 5:23 of game time, the Mountaineers went on a 19-5 run that gave them the Mountaineers their biggest lead of the game with just over eight minutes to play.
Furman responded with a 10-0 run, but it was too little too late for the Paladins. Tevin Baskin put a bow on the game as Furman went up for a breakaway dunk with 13 seconds left and Baskin emphatically blocked it away to preserve a 74-60 final margin.
In the earlier meeting against Furman, Appalachian had very balanced scoring, as four players scored 14 points. Scoring was very balanced against Furman in the tournament as no player scored more than 13 points. Nathan Healy and Jay Canty scored 13 as Jamaal Trice added twelve points to round out the Mountaineer double figure scorers. Baskin and Tab Hamilton added nine points each while Michael Obacha scored eight points and led the team with seven rebounds.
Next up for the Mountaineers is Davidson, who blistered Georgia Southern with three pointers, nailing ten in the first half, and thirteen for the game. Five Wildcats scored in double figures in the 86-59 win. Davidson handled Appalachian in both meeting this season, so this game will be a tall task for the Mountaineers. Most consider Appalachian the weakest of the four top seeds and predicted they would make an early exit in the tournament. Davidson and Appalachian have never met in the semifinals before and Appalachian is 1-3 all time against the Wildcats in the tournament. Davidson has easily brought the most fans to the tournament, but hopefully a 6pm start will bring a few more Mountaineers to Asheville.
Despite an up and down season that has confused and bewildered the team, the Mountaineer women have one more chance to redeem themselves when they tipoff at 2:15 against College of Charleston in the quarterfinals of the SoCon Tournament. Many teams and coaches would love to finish where the Mountaineers did when you consider their overall record at 19-9, but it has been a few years since the Mountaineers failed to claim their twentieth win in the regular season. The top half of the conference basically owned the Mountaineers this year, as Chattanooga, Samford and Davidson swept them.
Charleston is a team that can beat you several different ways and have been a roll in the last couple weeks. The Cougars have won three straight since losing to Appalachian on February 20th, and have done so in somewhat convincing fashion. Charleston handled Wofford by nine points, Western Carolina by twelve points and Furman by twelve points. Prior to the loss to Appalachian, Charleston beat Samford by one at home and Davidson on the road by three points. If you look back further, Charleston has won eight of their last eleven games.
The key for Charleston has been a change in offensive philosophy the last few games. Against Appalachian, Charleston put up 23 three point attempts, and have only put up 22 threes in their last three games combined. The Cougars have driven to the basket more, and although they are not a good free throw shooting team, more attempts at the line in game action will improve those statistics.
This game is a dangerous one for the women, and basically they all are in the tournament. The road will not get easier for the Mountaineers and playing one game in Kimmel Arena will make things different for all teams involved. This could be the final game for several seniors, who have been instrumental in turning this program around in the last four seasons, and I expect an effort worthy of the fear of wearing that jersey for the final time.
Samford’s Jazmine Martin nailed a three pointer with three tenths of a second on the clock to beat Appalachian on Monday night in Boone. It was second time this season that Appalachian had lost to the Bulldogs on a last second shot. In both instances, Appalachian connected on their final possession to tie the game. In the game from earlier this season, Samford hit a running layup, and this time around, Martin’s three pointer came from the baseline and rattled in.
The game began in an odd fashion, with one official calling in sick just moments before tip-off as the game started with two officials. The two officials who began the game went on to call three seconds in the lane on both teams in the first half. They also called twelve fouls on Appalachian while only calling six on Samford in the first half. Samford would knock down eleven of their twelve free throws in the first half. In the second half, the foul totals were equally inconsistent, as Samford was whistled for five fouls while Appalachian was called for ten. Samford would hit eleven of thirteen free throws in the second half. So, for the game, Appalachian was called for twice as many fouls, that led to Samford shooting ten more free throws, and scoring thirteen more points than Appalachian on the line for the game. Over a third of the Samford points (22 of 63) came on the foul line.
The result keeps Appalachian solidly as the fourth seed in the SoCon Tourney, but also caps off an unspectacular 13-7 conference record. The fourth seed still provides Appalachian a bye, and will face off against Charleston on Saturday at 2:15pm at Kimmel Arena on the campus of UNC-Asheville.
If Appalachian had any lingering effects from their loss on Monday at Elon, they let them all loose on Greensboro. The Mountaineers never trailed in this game, and raced out to a sixteen point lead at halftime over the Spartans. The Mountaineers eventually led by as many as thirty five points in the second half before closing out the game with a twenty-nine point win. Greensboro may have still had some ill effects from their food poisoning from over the weekend.
Appalachian was led by three players in doubles figures with Maryah Sydnor scoring 18 points, and Anna Freeman and Courtney Freeman adding 13 points each. Anna Freeman secured 11 rebounds while Kelsey Sharkey pulled down 10 rebounds. The Mountaineers bested the Spartans in every statistical category, outside of free throw attempts. Somehow the Spartans only committed five fouls the entire game. The Mountaineers hit 52% from the field, and hit more threes (5), than they did free throws (4).
Appalachian is now a full game ahead of Elon, with both teams having tough tests remaining. Appalachian hosts Chattanooga and Samford this weekend while Elon has Davidson remaining on their schedule. If the Mountaineers want the third seed, they are going to have to win at least one of their remaining games to feel good about themselves. The third seed would put Appalachian on the same side of the bracket as Davidson, who they cannot seem to beat. If the Mountaineers slip to the fourth seed, they would find themselves on the same side as Chattanooga.
Appalachian travelled to Elon on Sunday afternoon in preparation for a Monday night game that will help decide seeding in the SoCon Tournament. Appalachian is one win in front of Elon in the current standings, and will be looking to sweep the Phoenix. Having the tiebreaker over Elon would be huge as Appalachian will now play four games in eight days after their game with UNC-Greensboro on Saturday was moved as the Spartans players and coaches suffered from food poisoning.
Appalachian stifled Elon in their first game of the season. The Mountaineers cruised to an eighteen point win back on February 2nd. Appalachian employed an interesting strategy on Elon star Ali Ford, who eventually fouled out of the game. Ford will need to stay on the court in order to pull the upset on Appalachian. The Mountaineers have played very well recently, focusing more on an inside game and shying away from shooting from the perimeter. The Mountaineer defense has also played well recently. Elon has a lot of height on their roster, but they are all sticks, and lack any real skill and bulk on the interior. Elon is 10-2 this season at home compared to Appalachian who is 7-5 on the road this season.
Elon flexed their muscle with massive runs in each half that Appalachianwas not able to overcome. The Mountaineers had been doubled up in the first half after going down 26-13 on the backs of Elon’s three point shooting. The Mountaineers rallied to cut Elon’s lead at halftime to six points. Appalachian and Elon traded baskets in the second half, with Applachian cutting the lead to one on two different occasions before Elon went on another run. Appalachian saw foul trouble from the only player who was bringing anything on offense when Maryah Sydnor picked up her fourth foul. From there, Elon continued to share the basketball, finding open players for easy baskets while the Mountaineers turned the ball over time after time.
Anna Freeman may have had her worst game in years. She scored three points and only made one basket and recoreded a season low in field goal attempts. She failed to record a block shot or steal for the first time all season long. Luckily Maryah Sydnor showed up, but unfortunately, no other Mountaineer did. Sydnor scored 25 points and grabbed nine rebounds, but the pressure of being the only contributor got to her as she committed seven turnovers. Courtney Freeman scored thirteen points but committed five turnovers of her own.
As we catch our breath, and step back and assess the situation, Appalachian can still finish third in the regular season. Currently Appalachian and Elon are tied in the conference standings with 12 conference wins, although Elon has one more loss than Appalachian. If Appalachian and Elon tie in the conference standings, tiebreaker goes to the top of the standings and the team record against first place and on down until the tie is broken. Luckily, for Appalachian, Chattanooga clinched the regular season tonight by beating Davidson and has nothing left to play for until the tournament. Appalachian will play Chattanooga on Saturday and can hopefully steal a win from the Mocs. Appalachian will play their makeup game from last Saturday on Wednesday afternoon, and a win over the Spartans is highly in need based on tonight’s poor performance.
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.
One way to look at this game, is that Appalachian did a great job of playing defense and holding Western to only 32 points. Otherwise, Appalachian was fortunate that they had one of their worst offensive nights against one of the worst teams in the conference. Considering the Mountaineers only gave up 50 to Wofford on Saturday, you have to like where this team is headed. According to Darcie Vincent, Appalachian could have “scored a 100 with all of those missed layups.” That is vintage Darcie, always urging her team to play better, and that there is always room for improvement. Eventually this kind of talk may fall on deaf ears, but we are certainly a fan of giving 100% on every given night.
Western was awful on a special level. The Catamounts shot 11/52 for the night, good enough for 21%. That number is what Western had to improve to, as much of the second half, the Catamounts were shooting in the teens. The Cats somehow managed to hit two three pointers – of their nineteen attempts. Eight of their thirty-two points came on the free throw line. That one fourth of their points, on the free throw line. Usually, that is a good thing, but not when you are held under a point a minute. Western actually had two players score six points, and eleven of their players scored. Usually when eleven players score in a game, its a good thing, but not so for Western Carolina tonight.
Several Mountaineers turned out big games. As per usual, Anna Freeman was the leader in several categories, but also outhustled basically the entire Catamount team. Anna finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds, 6 steals and 4 blocks. Western Carolina only had one block. Maryah Sydnor took home the honors of the game’s leading scorer with 16 points, 5 rebounds and 4 steals. Kelsey Sharkey continues her solid play, scoring 8 points, but adding 12 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 blocks. Courtney Freeman rounded out the double digit scorers with 11 points and 7 rebounds. Next up for the Mountaineers is Charleston on Wednesday, part of a doubleheader with the men playing the Citadel. The Cougars have been hot recently, just beating Davidson last week and Samford on Monday night.
The Mountaineer women will face Wofford in the annual Play4Kay game for cancer research. Wofford is 0-5 on the road this season in conference play despite taking Appalachian to two overtimes earler this season. Wofford has yet to beat an Appalachian team coached by Darcie Vincent despite several close calls over the years. The Mountaineers have won eleven in a row in the series and really needs a win to keep pressure on the teams in front of them in the conference standings.
This game was never in reach for Wofford. Appalachian jumped out to leads of 8-0, 15-5, and 29-14 before leading by fifteen points at halftime. Appalachian extended that lead throughout the second half en route to a 27 point victory, one where Appalachian actively pursued scoring on their last possession of the game. Anna Freeman hit a layup at the end of the shot clock, with two seconds remaining in the game to make the final score 77-50.
In a game where Appalachian dominated from start to finish, the Mountaineers hit the glass for the highest rebounding margin of the season, yet still seem to give up plenty of offensive rebounds. The Mountaineers led the battle of the boards 51-37, but nearly half of Wofford’s boards were on the offensive glass. This has been a problem for Appalachian all season long, and there does not seem to be a cure in the near future.
Wofford had problems hitting shots all game long. The Terriers only shot 28.3% from the field, 17.6% from behind the arc, and only 50% from the free throw line. In all, Appalachian made thirteen more made field goals than Wofford, shooting just under 50% for the game while also hitting fifteen of their twenty free throws.
Four Mountaineers scored in double figures, led as always by Anna Freeman, who scored 19 points and secured her second straight double-double, and third in her last five games. Anna now has six double-doubles on the season, this one no doubt being one her best with 15 rebounds. Maryah Sydnor finished with 14 points and 8 rebounds. Raven Gary scored 10 points and added five assists, without recording a turnover. Courtney Freeman finished with 11 points.
Coaches like to tell their teams that the next basketball game, is the biggest one of our season. Appalachian’s game against Elon will be the biggest game to date, as a win or loss in either direction has big implications as far as tournament seeding and bye possibilities. Elon holds a 2.5 game lead over Appalachian and if the Mountaineers could cut the lead to 1.5 games, the pressure would be on Elon, as Appalachian would also hold the tiebreaker over Elon, going 2-0 against the Phoenix this season. A loss would all but end Appalachian’s chances to win the North Division. Who would have thought the Mountaineers would be in this position after the way they started the season?
Elon is fresh off of beating Furman by four points last Saturday. Elon’s big man, Lucas Troutman hurt his ankle in the win, only playing five minutes and is considered questionable for Thursday. Troutman was the team’s leading scorer at 15.1 points per game. Troutman scored fourteen against Appalachian earlier this season. Sharp shooter Jack Isenbarger is putting up 14.1 points per game, but only scored nine points in the first meeting. Isengarger has only been held to single digit scoring seven times this season. Tab Hamilton did a great job defensively against Isenbarger in the first game.
The defensive end is where Appalachian is going to have to win this game. Elon has shot 50% or better only four times this season, winning every games except against Appalachian. After losing to Appalachian, Elon secured seven straight wins, but has cooled off of late, losing by ten at Wofford prior to their win over Furman. The key will be keeping Elon from shooting threes, as three players have hit 40 or more threes this season. Samson Tanner has also been a huge spark plug for Elon lately. Tanner did not score against Appalachian in the first game, but has scored 82 points in his last nine games. Tanner averaged 5.4 points prior to going scoreless against Appalachian, but has averaged 9.1 points per game in his last nine games. Elon is 0-3 this season when Tanner does not score.
Appalachian only has three road wins this season, two in conference play. Last year, Elon barnstormed the Mountaineers in Burlington. Alumni Gym is not exactly what I would call a tough place to play, but it is very cozy and their students are annoying to listen to. Nathan Healy and Tevin Baskin both had big games the last time out against Elon as they forced Lucas Troutman into four fouls and only 25 minutes played. The Apps must attack the rim and challenge Elon in the paint. Appalachian does not have what it takes to get into a jump shooting contest against Elon.
10:14 AM UPDATE: Elon is currently favored by 8.5 points. This line is going to move today at some point, and I don’t think we will see 9. I think this will settle at 8. I am leaning Elon tonight, based on last year’s game.
6:56 PM UPDATE: Elon has to cover nine big ones. I just don’t think they will do it. I think it’s possible, but this game means too much for Appalachian to come out flat. One more time for the Apps.
It happened again. Appalachian led by seven points with 4:23 to play in the second half. From that point on, Elon outscored Appalachian 14-4 to all but clinch a first round bye in the SoCon tournament. Appalachian now must chase down Western Carolina, who defeated UNCG 70-68. In fact, Appalachian fell from second place to fourth in the North. That is how fragile the standings in the division are right now. Every win is big, and every loss is devastating. If App is not careful, a loss to Greensboro on Sunday could put them in fifth place, with every other team in the North playing a winnable game.
Elon started the game quickly and ran out to an early lead, but Appalachian countered with a 13-4 run in the first half to take a 21-14 lead. Elon battled back to tie the game at 23 thanks to Jack Isenbarger scoring four points before Appalachian called a timeout. Isenbarger would hit a three with just under a minute left in the first half to give Elon a 31-26 lead at halftime. Appalachian only scored 5 points in the last 7:47 of the first half. If you add the last few moments of each half together, Appalachian combined to score 9 points in the final twelve minutes and change of each half.
The game was one where several Mountaineer players did not show up, and this team cannot afford not to have everyone playing well and expect to win. Tab Hamilton was scoreless. Mike Neal was 3/10. Nathan Healy was in borderline foul trouble parts of the game and could not play as aggressive as he would like to. The team shot under 40% for the game, and only hit 3/16 from behind the arc. The real difference, App recorded seven assists, while Elon assisted on fourteen of their twenty-two made baskets.
Appalachian did manage to cover the spread, which would have been much sweeter if they could have held on for the win. They move to 13-7 on the year while our picks lag behind one game, as has been the case the entire season. Greensboro will bring a challenge, as Appalachian can be better than UNCG when they want to be, but the Spartans have one of the best one-two punches in the conference in Armstrong and Simpkins. Should be an interesting line tomorrow.