ARKANSAS STATE vs. APP STATE GAME PREVIEW

Winless in the Sun Belt Conference Appalachian State is already facing conversations of must-win games. The next one happens at home against Arkansas State who is fresh off a surprising rout loss of their own. The Mountaineers have looked starkly good and bad in each of their three league losses but are struggling with familiar refrains of scoring labors and late-game blackouts.

Of all other Sun Belt opponents Appalachian State has had strong short-standing success against Arkansas State, winning three of the first four games since joining the league. Historically, the Mountaineers have won those games by playing with greater physicality. Winning on the glass, playing tough inside, forcing lower shooting percentages, and making the Red Wolves win from the perimeter.

But the other thing that has marked those wins is scoring – Appalachian has averaged 80 points per game in those victories over the past two years. And, App currently finds itself in the midst of a scoring slump, averaging 65 points per game during the current three-game league losing streak. This after averaging 80 a game beforehand.

One advantage for App State is playing on their home floor. Arkansas State has been perfect at home this season, going 6-0, but is a less consistent 5-5 on the road. Still, Appalachian’s conference losses have had much more to do with execution than location.

ARKANSAS STATE RED WOLVES

Devin Carter: Veteran shooting guard who, despite the App State sweep, averaged 16 points and 7.5 rebounds last season in those games. Carter’s takeover of the lead role signals a shift to a more perimeter-oriented scoring balance for Arkansas State. Disrupt Carter and you wound their offense; in losses he still averages a hair over 16 per game but shoots 33% from the floor and 22% at the arc.

Devean Simms: Despite working exclusively off the bench Simms is the second-leading scorer and a bookend to Carter physically. Simms is not nearly the three-point threat Carter is, so prepare to work against him primarily off mid-range screens and the dribble. Simms is not a creator for others, so worry more about stopping him than his passing impact.

Rashad Lindsey: The new guard-heavier lineup features a much greater three-point threat, with the 5’11” Lindsey shooting 44%. Arkansas State leads the Sun Belt in long-range shooting (38%) and Lindsey is an underappreciated scoring option from the perimeter. They also average 22-23 free-throw attempts per game, led by driving threats like Lindsey’s.

Donte Thomas: A point guard’s mentality inside a shooting guard’s body, Thomas averages just over six assists per game. What he is not is a good shooter, either from the floor or the free-throw line, but he gets to the line more than anyone on their roster. He impacts the game in multiple ways and takes great care of the ball despite being the primary handler.

C.J. Foster: Foster is, you guessed it, another guard. Foster is a solid fourth starter who is the most efficient shooter of the guards, despite not scoring or shooting with near the volume of his primary teammates. However, Foster is that kind of player who will make the big play in a tight game that makes the difference in a win vs. a loss.

Tamas Bruce: Bruce is the lone truly productive big man, at 6’7”, in the primary rotation. He scores 7.6 points and grabs 5.1 rebounds per game. Appalachian is fresh off a loss where they allowed a modest post scorer to go for 50% over his average, so try to force Bruce into foul trouble and keep him from hurting you offensively.

Connor Kern: You just have to keep an eye on Kern coming off the bench as a designated long-range shooter. He’s not a volume guy and comes with some defensive liability, so he only sees around 16 minutes a game. But, App State has allowed 41% three-point shooting in their three conference losses, so guarding the arc is key against Arkansas State.

Jahmiah Simmons: Freshman shooting guard had been relatively quiet until scoring 14 points at Coastal. Arkansas State can just keep running guards at you until they find the right combinations, but only if your own lineup fails to force their hand.

APP STATE MOUNTAINEERS

Ronshad Shabazz: Shabazz has scored in double-figures in 13 of 14 games this season, but it’s not just enough that he score in double digits. The Mountaineers have not won a DI game this season where Shabazz hasn’t scored at least 15 points. With the team struggling to score it feels like more plays should be run for Shabazz, who is able to create his own shot unlike anyone else on the team.

Griffin Kinney: Kinney is on a five-game stretch that is not only the best of his career but has been the most impactful of any Mountaineer. He’s averaging 12 points on 64% shooting and nearly nine rebounds per game, with three double-doubles in the past four games. Kinney is providing more offensive consistency in the paint than we’ve seen before during the Jim Fox era.

Tyrell Johnson: Okay, for all the scrutiny Johnson’s offensive performance has evoked he had a career-game against Little Rock. His 14 points, including a solid 6-9 from the free-throw line, provided extra punch to a scoring performance that needed it. Now, can Tyrell maintain that level of scoring and attacking the basket as he did last time out?

Emarius Logan: Logan started out on fire against Little Rock and had an impact. He opened 3-3 from the floor, all from three, and when Logan is scoring the offense tends to run better as a whole. Eventually, a strong defensive Little Rock team focused on stopping him and did, but it again showed the importance of Logan’s offense to overall point production.

Kelvin Robinson: Robinson’s minutes dropped a bit against Little Rock as Logan and Pat Good had the hot shooting hands, but against guard-heavy Arkansas State all of App’s primary guards will log key minutes. There will be a lot of motion requiring a lot of defensive switches, so Robinson will be an important contributor.

Patrick Good: Mr. Designated Offense is on another tear, shooting 10-15 from the three-point line in the past two games. His 49.3% is the third best in the Sun Belt and is also top 40 nationally. Good has also become not only a consistent rotation player, but a key element with six straight games over 20 minutes.

Isaac Johnson: Johnson had seven rebounds and three assists in spite of a tough shooting game (1-5) against Little Rock. With a smaller lineup coming against Arkansas State Isaac should be a difference-maker. A lack of effective post defense will work to his advantage, especially on the offensive boards where he leads the Mountaineers.

Jake Babic: This is a game where Babic should be a significant contributor, with Arkansas State going guards four times over. He is longer than any of their back court players, which he has used to his advantage in past match-ups against smaller guards. If the game turns into a perimeter shootout Babic’s offense would be a huge benefit.

GAME ANALYSIS

This is going to be a game of contrasting lineups and who can impose their will on the other side. Will Appalachian be forced to match-up with Arkansas State’s four-guard set or do the Mountaineers dictate the style with their athletic forward combo of Tyrell and Isaac Johnson?

Overall, App State’s roster has greater flexibility of players and playing styles which would conceivably present more challenges. It may require that Fox utilizes the 1-2-2 zone they’ve sprinkled in so successfully this season for more than a handful of possessions, but if App can keep the Johnsons and Kinney on the floor it creates a huge match-up problem for Arkansas State.

Of course, all the scheming goes out the window if Appalachian can’t maintain some consistency of offensive output, ideally led by Shabazz. Coastal Carolina beat the Red Wolves from the three-point line, finishing plus-24 points from the arc.

APP STATE 71 – ARKANSAS STATE 68


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