It has been a long ten day break for the holidays for Appalachian State women’s basketball. Their last time out, they used a big second half run to close out East Tennessee State to claim their sixth straight win. Their opponent on Friday evening is the only other Division I school that bears the same mascot as Appalachian, the Mountaineers of West Virginia. This game appears the be a battle of rebounds as both teams average close to six more rebounds than their opponents on the year.
West Virginia (7-3) has won 24 games or more in three straight seasons and has been a power in the Big East in the past. This season marks the inaugural season for the WVU in the Big XII. West Virginia features three double digit scorers and has used the same starting lineup in every game except one this season. Ayana Dunning leads the team with 11.1 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. West Virginia’s lone perimeter threat is Taylor Palmer who has hit 19 three pointers on the season. Crystal Leary has yet to start a game, but plays the role of a truly selfish player off the bench. Leary averages 6.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.
West Virginia appears to be a team that resembles Appalachian very well so the matchup should be quite interesting. Both teams foul more than their opponents, but also force turnovers and move the basketball well on offense. Six of West Virginia’s ten games are against teams with winning records, with a seventh opponent sitting at 6-6, which provides WVU with a lofty RPI of 46, with their strength of schedule ranked 34th in the country. Appalachian will be WVU’s seventh top 100 RPI opponent, while Appalachian will be facing its highest rated RPI opponent of the season.
According to social media sources, it seems that a few Appalachian players had some issues getting to Morgantown, WV due to the severe weather conditions of the past few days. It will be something to keep an eye on as this game wears on, to see how focused the black and gold are about this game. RealtimeRPI.com scouts this game as a 12 point loss for Appalachian.
Appalachian mounted a furious comeback in the second half for before falling on the road at West Virginia on Friday night. The Apps trailed by as much as twenty one points in the second half before tying the game at 65 with two and half minutes to play. West Virginia won the battle on the free throw line as time expired to give them a 72-67 win. West Virginia went to the line 26 times for the game while Appalachian was only granted 15 free throw attempts. Appalachian falls to 7-2 on the season, both losses coming to members of major conferences by single digits on the road.
As has been Darcie Vincent’s strategy in the “bigger” games on the schedule, she used a rotation of just a very few players. Seven players saw action for Appalachian, including Raven Gary, who saw just six minutes in her first action since foot injury that has kept her sidelined for several weeks. The remaining 194 minutes were divided amongst six players, which means each players plays about 32 minutes, if all things were equal. The problem with a predominantly six man lineup to play an entire game, is that you gamble with your gameplan and your scheme to beat your opponent. Every player must show up on that given night. Unfortunately for Appalachian, every player didnt have their signature game against WestVirginia.
What we saw was a typical game from Anna Freeman, who finished with 25 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 7 steals. However, Anna uncharacteristically turned the ball over six times, doubling her previous high turnover mark of the season. Courtney Freeman did not have her typical game at all. Courtney only managed four points and six rebounds. Maryah Sydnor is shaking off her slow start to the season, as she scored 19 points and grabbed six rebounds. Katie Mallow added 13 points, sparked by nailing a trio of three pointers. Michelle Taylor and Raven Gary did not score, combining to miss all five of their field goals attempts.
Overall, it was a good effort by Appalachian after a ten day layoff. They have been in every game they lost this season in the final minutes which is a huge plus. Appalachian will now hit the conference slate for nineteen straight games before the conference tournament. First up is Davidson on the road next Saturday at 3pm, and at Furman on January 7th.