APP STATE vs. TEXAS STATE GAME PREVIEW

Now, it's on. The Sun Belt season is what it's all about for Appalachian State. It's what the often brutal road non-conference schedule was about. It's why the 3-1 record to finish out-of-conference play was so crucial. App State is a very young team having to learn to play old ideally before they hit the road to open league play. Texas is a tough place to begin but the Mountaineers are prepared.

There are times a few days off can come in handy and other times when you don’t want to leave the court. Earlier in the month, after a frigid-shooting bitter home loss, Appalachian State didn’t play for the next eight days. App State has gone 3-1 since the time off.

But, after winning that three of four the Mountaineers will have taken a 10-day holiday hiatus before opening Sun Belt Conference play at Texas State. Appalachian boosted their shooting to 46% from the floor in the past four games, after shooting 37% during the 1-3 stretch just prior.

How well can App State carry that offensive momentum over during a break and a flight to the Lone Star state?

Texas STATE BOBCATS

Kavin Gilder-Tilbury: Super-productive swingman is among league leaders with 15.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. At 6’7”, Gilder-Tilbury is the kind of player who has historically hurt Appalachian, as he is very effective off the dribble and in getting to the free-throw line but will also step outside and nail a three (21 made).

Nijal Pearson: Pearson is a true freshman with no conscience. He’s shooting 46% from the floor and gets to the free-throw line as often as the veteran Gilder-Tilbury. In fact, Pearson may be the key to the game; in Texas State’s wins he averages 16.7 points on 52% shooting, but in their losses those numbers drop to 9.0 on 37%.

Bobby Conley: Veteran junior-college transfer who is the top Texas State perimeter shooter (43% from the arc) and plays well off his teammates. Conley doesn’t shoot with nearly the frequency of Golder-Tilbury and Pearson, but he’s the kind of guy that costs you a game when you lose track of him as their offense progresses.

Ojai Black: Texas State’s playmaker, Black leads the team in assists and sits 8th in the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio. Black is not a great shooter (33% overall and 25% from three) but he’s effective at getting to the free-throw line. App State has the opportunity to be physical with Black, using Kelvin Robinson to check him.

Maljhum McCrea: Very physical big man who’s also a little foul-prone, averaging a whistle every six minutes or more often. McCrea is just 6’7” but is powerfully built and moves well. He won’t kill you with the volume of his scoring but he’s an efficient shooter (52%) and he’s active on the glass. He’s their leading shot blocker but App has to challenge him.

Immanuel King/Nedeljco Prijovic/Tyler Blount/Marlin Davis: The remainder of the rotation combines for just 14 points per game, but King and Prijovic, both 6’8”, team for 7.3 rebounds and are especially effective on the offensive glass. Blount and Davis are both guards, with Blount the more dangerous jump shooter and Davis working more off the bounce.

APP STATE MOUNTAINEERS

Ronshad Shabazz: Over the past four games Shabazz has played the role of a leading scorer, but not through sheer volume of shots. He’s taking quality shots, as evidenced by his 63% two-point shooting percentage in those games. If his three-point shot starts dropping consistently then look out, he could be in for a scoring explosion.

Emarius Logan: As Logan’s scoring (9.3) and shooting (46% overall and 50% from three) has improved during the past four games, his role as offensive catalyst has also increased (18 assist, just three turnovers). Appalachian’s offense finds a different gear when Logan is that productive, not to mention that his playmaking takes some pressure off Kelvin Robinson at the point.

Griffin Kinney: The noted production trend over the past four games extends to Kinney, as well. He’s averaging nearly 11 points and over five rebounds per game during that stretch, and has re-asserted himself offensively with 7-8 shot attempts per game. Kinney’s ability to stay relatively foul-free has resulted in great numbers.

Kelvin Robinson: Despite recent struggles from inside the arc (35% over the past four games) Robinson is still shooting 41% from three-point range on the season. Despite hitting a bit of a rookie scoring wall Robinson is still extremely valuable defensively, and his minutes over the past two games (26.0 per) demonstrate his value beyond scoring.

Tyrell Johnson: Johnson had one of his better offensive games in the win over Hampton, scoring 12 points on 4-6 shooting. Still, only four times in 11 games has he shot 50% from the floor, which is where he absolutely should be given the quality of shots he’s earned. Tyrell creates great opportunities, he just has to finish them more consistently.

Isaac Johnson: Isaac’s energy has been critical to App State’s 33-point bench-scoring average. Johnson will be important against Texas State, especially in helping to defend Gilder-Tilbury near the basket. Despite logging less than 20 minutes per game Johnson leads the Mountaineers in total rebounds, offensive boards, is second in steals, and shoots 59% from the floor.

Pat Good: Shooters keep shooting; despite shooting a combined 1-10 from the floor in back to back games on December 11th and 15th, Good has come back in the past two games scoring 25 points on 7-14 shooting. He’s on pace to have the third best single-season three-point shooting percentage in App State history at 46.9%.

Jake Babic: As the Mountaineer rotation has tightened during the past two games Babic’s minutes have declined a bit (12:00 per game), still he’s having his best offensive season at Appalachian. Babic also has this knack for coming up big in an upset win or two every season, so don’t discount his ability to influence a key outcome in league play.

Jake Wilson/Matt O’Boyle/Craig Hinton: As noted, the tightening of the playing rotation has impacted minutes for multiple players, with the court time being defined heavily by game situation and match-ups. At least for the past four games, it’s been Hinton who has produced 17 points in 40 minutes after just 11 in 51 through the first seven games.

GAME ANALYSIS

Texas State wants to make it ugly. They score just 68.9 points per game, 278th nationally, but they allow only 61.9, which is 22nd in the country. They force nearly 16 turnovers per game and have the 49th best turnover margin in college hoops.

They want to control tempo by forcing tough shots (opponents shoot just 39%) and limiting second-chance points with effective rebounding.

Appalachian has an opportunity to exploit offensive rebounding against Texas State, where the Mountaineers average nearly 13 offensive boards per game. Creating extra possessions against an opponent who struggles to score is critical, as is controlling turnovers.

The Mountaineers will have to find a way to produce on the road where Appalachian is just 1-5 this season, and Texas State is 4-1 at home.

But, the simplest way for App State to win this game is continued execution of what they’ve been doing well for most of December. For the month, Appalachian has assists on 69% of their made baskets, which is a key tor offensive success.

In two years under Head Coach Jim Fox App State is 1-1 coming out of these holiday breaks and the Mountaineers have played tough on the road against Texas State, with a win two seasons ago and a one-point loss last year.

APP STATE 75 – TEXAS STATE 69


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