Appalachian State faces a déjà vu game with James Madison coming to Boone. It’s an opponent with a losing record who is struggling to score points. When that happened against Western Carolina two weeks earlier App State went even-beyond-Boone-cold from the floor and lost 58-53.
Las Vegas prognosticators have Appalachian sitting as a 1.5-point underdog to the 1-8 Dukes.
It’s time for the Mountaineers to reclaim their confidence offensively and claim the home-court advantage that the outside world seem to feel has abandoned the black and gold.
JAMES MADISON DUKES
Jackson Kent: The High Point, NC swingman leads the team at 12.6 points, shoots 39% from the three-point line, and averages 5.0 rebounds per game. Kent is one of those shooters who is actually as accurate from the arc as inside it and is a good match-up for one of App’s long defenders named Johnson.
Joey McLean: Another North Carolina Triad product, the point guard not only leads the team in assists but is tied with Kent for three-pointers made. He’s smaller, so getting up on him defensively and being physical, as Mountaineer Kelvin Robinson can, is a good play. McLean will drive with the ball and is adept at getting to the free-throw line.
Shakir Brown: A junior-college transfer, Brown is one of JMU’s bigger players at 225 lbs. but takes more three-pointers than anyone on the team. What he hasn’t done is make a ton of them (34% from the floor/28% from the arc). Still, he’s the kind of player who seems to suddenly find his range against App, so keeping him in check is key.
Yohanny Dalembert: The Haitian big man (6’8”, 240 lb.) is an efficient scorer (55% from the floor) and leads the team in rebounds, with about one-third of them coming on the offensive end. Get a body on him when shots go up. He also gets the free-throw line more than anyone on the roster, but is prone to foul trouble (a whistle every six minutes).
Tom Vodanovich: A 6’7”, 220 lb, European-style forward who is crafty around the basket but will step out and take a three. He doesn’t create many of his own shots but is good at finding space to spot-up or cut to the basket. As a defender, App will want to attack him with one of the Johnsons or Griffin Kinney and force him to play on that end.
Ramone Snowden: Another of JMU’s seemingly endless parade of 6’6”-ish, 225-230 lb. guys, Snowden is a more reluctant shooter but is perhaps their best front-line defender. Appalachian can’t totally forget about him on the offensive end but you want to force him to beat you offensively, where he takes only around three shots per game.
APP STATE MOUNTAINEERS
Ronshad Shabazz: The shooting line at State wasn’t great (though he was 5-10 inside the three-point line) but Shabazz looked more like the Shabazz that ended last season. Being unselfish can be a great trait on the basketball court, but he had looked more indecisive than generous. In the past two games Shabazz has looked much more assertive. App needs that.
Griffin Kinney: The State game got into a pace that wasn’t Kinney’s forte and App simply didn’t work inside out as much as is preferred that night. JMU offers him an opportunity to produce on the stat line, both with his scoring and rebounding. Appalachian will need him on the glass especially to create extra possession opportunities.
Tyrell Johnson: Johnson actually had one of his better shooting games down low, going 3-4 at State, but he also squeezed the trigger on three quick three-point attempts (0-3, including two in the first 1:37 of play) that may explain his 12-minute evening. JMU will struggle to match his athleticism, IF he’ll rely on it and finish at the rim.
Kelvin Robinson: ACC point guards, especially one who was ranked as Scout’s 10th best recruit, can make you look worse than you’re playing. Robinson had a tough night in Raleigh, at least offensively, but in typical Kelvin fashion never stopped battling. JMU guards will struggle with his strength and physicality.
Isaac Johnson: Another game, more impressive production. Isaac’s 40-minute adjusted numbers at State were 19 points and 12 rebounds. As with Tyrell, Isaac is a match-up problem for JMU, so hopefully he gets more than the 19 minutes he saw in Raleigh. And, it would still be interesting to see he and Tyrell on the floor together more often.
Emarius Logan: State had scouted Logan very well, and hawked him at the three-point line. Instead, they invited him to drive with the ball and finishing at the rim has been a struggle this season, so far. Still, Logan produced a team-leading four assists and came up with a couple of steals, in spite of continued offensive struggles.
Jake Babic/Pat Good: Very opposite games for these two at State. Babic was actually very solid, scoring 10 points on 3-5 shooting. It wasn’t a playmaking game for him as much, but with App struggling to finish that may not have been his fault. Good just didn’t have his range and now has to fight through his first mini-slump of the season (1-8 from three in the past two games).
Jake Wilson/Matt O’Boyle/Craig Hinton: Double-figure minutes for all at State, and they did combine for 11 points and seven rebounds. But, the rotation is still very heavy, especially when you consider Bennett Holley sat out at State with an injury. Watching Appalachian continue to refine their minutes will be interesting, this week especially.
James Madison is struggling offensively at 66 points per game (307th nationally) and shoot just 42.6% (#254). But, they also hold opponents to 42.8% from the floor and 33% from the arc, so they want to drag you into an ugly game.
Playing ugly, or at least shooting ugly, has been a trend for App State of late.
Until the Mountaineers start knocking down shots again, especially from three, expect teams to back off and force Appalachian to make some jumpers.
Perhaps the best place for App State to find their offense again is actually on the other end of the court. Turning defense into offense is a Jim Fox key for every game, and JMU struggles with ball security (17 turnovers per game, 334th nationally).
Also, watch rebounding; this has been a strength for both teams. Appalachian is 73rd nationally in rebounding margin and JMU is 107th. The difference between the two on the boards is that App State is 31st in the country in offensive rebounding, and creating extra possessions will be a factor in this game.
But, at the end of it all, App State just needs to start making shots again. Remember, the team that averaged 89 points per game and sat with a 2-2 record through four game is still there, underneath this arctic-like slump.
APP STATE 73 – JAMES MADISON 66