Appalachian hosts Duquesne in Boone tonight in the first meeting between the two schools since a Mountaineer win in in 2005. Duquesnse is a member of the Atlantic 10 conference and currently ranks #195 at realtimerpi. The Dukes will be playing their third road game of the season, having lost their previous two road games at Albany and Georgetown. Duquesne is fresh off of a three game home stand in which they picked up victories over #249 James Madison and #288 Youngstown State, but lost to #77 North Dakota State. Sounds more like a gauntlet of FCS football programs than basketball powerhouses.
Duquesne was picked to finish last in the sixteen team A-10 in the preseason poll. Head coach Jim Ferry is in his first season at Duquesne after guiding LIU-Brooklyn to back to back NCAA tournament appearances. His teams are known for a high scoring brand of basketball, despite the Dukes averaging 67 points per game this far in 2012-13.
Duquesne is replacing two 1,000 point scorers who graduated last year. Currently, three Dukes are averaging in double figures, but the scoring drops off significantly after their big three. Senior guard Sean Johnson leads the team with 13.4 points per game. Johnson rebounds well from his position on the court, leading the team with six boards per game. Johnson also leads the team shooting 84% from the free throw line and is one of four players to start every game. Freshman point guard Derrick Colter leads the team with 21 assists, but also leads the team with 22 turnovers. Colter is second on the team is scoring at 11.8 points per contest. Sixth man Quevyn Winters is third on the team in scoring at 10.8 points per game, but has been inconsistent. Fifty-two of his fifty four points have come in three games. The Duquesne roster includes four players who grew up outside of the United States.
Appalachian has played better in its last two games against East Carolina and Virginia Tech, two teams who are a combined 10-0 at this point in the season. It is apparent that something happened with this team after the Campbell game and before the East Carolina game. Despite carrying a 1-4 record, and having yet to win a Division I game, these Mountaineers are improving and could be poised to break through tonight against a young Duquesne team. The Mountaineers are underdogs in their own house for the first time since playing Wofford last year. The four point spread is a good number for Appalachian. After covering two large spreads on the road, getting points at home seems like a guaranteed win. Last year, when getting points at home, the Mountaineers were 1-1, covering 8.5 against Davidson and losing by 2 to Wofford, in a game where the line was at 1.5. I’ll take the Mountaineers at home.
This game started off poorly for the Mountaineers as their weak defense continued to expose them. Appalachian was constantly leaving shooters wide open on the perimeter, and Duquesne took advantage. The Dukes were able to shoot 50% in the first half, draining seven of their twelve three point attempts as they raced out to a fourteen point halftime lead. The Dukes led by as many as nineteen points in the first half before Appalachian cut the lead in the final minutes. The Dukes surprised the Mountaineers with thirty bench points in the first half.
The second half was an entirely different story. The Mountaineers started the period on a 9-0 run to cut the deficit to five points before the first media timeout. Five minutes later, the Mountaineers tied the game at 51. In the first nine minutes of the second half, Appalachian outscored Duquesne 18-4. The remainder of the half was a back and forth affair as the lead changed several times. The game was tied for the seventh time with seven minutes to play at 61, and then again four minutes later at 67. With 2:13 to play, the score was knotted for the ninth and final time of the game at 68. The Mountaineers took the lead with 0:47 to play an a layup by Michael Obacha. On the ensuing possession, Appalachian played defense like they did in the first half. Duquense worked the ball around quickly and found an open Quevyn Winters, who nailed a three pointer with 31 seconds left, giving the Dukes the one point lead. Tab Hamilton missed a jumper, and the Mountaineers were forced to foul. Jerry Jones knocked down both free throws with 14.4 seconds remaining. Jay Canty worked down the court and hit a layup, but had to score off of his own miss, which costed the Mountaineers a valuable 2 seconds on the game clock. Duquesne missed both free throws on the foul, with four seconds left, but the Mountaineers could not corral the rebound in enough time to be able to call a timeout and set up a final play. Nathan Healy’s three quarter court shot fell well short.
Despite the result, it was good to see this team fight to the finish. They easily could have quit and gone through the motions. Duquesne went cold in the second half, shooting only 31% from the field. The Dukes only knocked down two three pointers in the second half, but both of them gave them the lead when the game was either tied or they trailed. Appalachian shot 57% in the second half, and ended up 50% for the game, the first time this season the Mountaineers had hit half their shots in a game. Appalachian’s field goal defense was also their best mark of the season. Nathan Healy led the Mountaineers with 21 points, six rebounds and four blocks. Jay Canty scored fifteen and dished out ten assists. Tab Hamilton scored nineteen points and grabbed a career high seven rebounds. Healy (3) , Canty (1) and Hamilton (5) accounted for all nine Mountaineer three pointers. Brian Okam only played nine minutes before fouling out, but was as effective as he has ever been. Okam showed an inside move, worked well off screens and absolutely posterized some poor Duke player on a two-handed slam off of a pick and roll, where he was fouled, and hit the free throw. Jamaal Trice seems to be battling another illness as he sat almost the entire second half. Tevin Baskin played six minutes and turned the ball over three times.
We were correct with our pick of taking the Mountaineers at home being a four point underdog. It didn’t look good in the first half, and if there were bettors on the other side, they had to be furious in the second half. Interesting to know that even though the Mountaineers still do not have a Division I win, they have covered the spread in three straight games. Our record moved to 2-1 on the season, with a very high number likely coming at Missouri on Saturday. I am expecting someting around twenty. Tipoff coincides with kickoff of the playoff football game, so we will do our best to get a pick in sometime on Saturday morning, most likely from tailgate.