AFTERMATH: ARKANSAS STATE vs. APP STATE

When it mattered most Appalachian State stepped up in a 70-57 win over Arkansas State. The game wasn’t without its offensive woes or putrid Sun Belt officiating but the Mountaineers, facing a possible 0-4 start to conference play, used exceptional defense to carry them until the offense kicked in during a well-balanced second half. Now, Appalachian takes to the road for three straight games.

The first 4:09 of Appalachian State’s 70-57 win over Arkansas State was outstanding. The Mountaineers went 5-8 from the floor, 2-2 from the three-point line, and had four assists, while holding Arkansas State scoreless in a 12-0 blitz to the first media timeout at 15:51.

Coming out of that timeout, though, Clark Kent emerged from the phone booth instead of the Superman-like team that opened the game.

App State struggled through one of their too-familiar cold streaks offensively, shooting 2-12 from the floor as Arkansas State went on a 23-5 run over the next 9:56.

Appalachian began attacking off-the-dribble offensively and closed the half on a 13-9 run to trail just 32-20 at the half, but the game was still well within reach for one reason. Defense.

As they did in another cold-shooting first half two days earlier against Little Rock, Appalachian stayed in the Arkansas State game by playing some of their better defense of the season.

Celebrate a second half that saw the Mountaineers score 40 points on 52% from the floor, 40% from the arc, and 80% at the free-throw line, but acknowledge that defense won the game.

And the value of finishing a tight game on the scoreboard with a win can’t be overstated.

So, What Went Down?

APP STATE OFFENSE

There were a lot of offensive standouts, especially in the second-half, for App State.

- Griffin Kinney shook off first-half foul trouble to go 3-3 from the floor, as App outscored the Red Wolves in the paint in the second half.

- Isaac Johnson also went 3-3 from the floor for seven points in just eight minutes after halftime.

- Craig Hinton scored six second-half points, all from the three-point line, to provide scoring punch from a bench that posted just three points in the first half.

- Emarius Logan shook off 1-5 shooting from the floor to go 4-4 at the free-throw line down the stretch to salt away the critical win.

It always takes a team effort to win, but the App State offense is still at its best when Ronshad Shabazz is scoring. His dual-threat abilities, both off the dribble and from the perimeter, spreads a defense to allow other Mountaineers to use cuts and drives more effectively and create extra room in the post.

Shabazz kept the Mountaineers afloat in the first half, with 10 of the team’s 30 points, and then he had key second-half baskets (two that stretched one-possession leads to two) on the way to 18 points (4-6 from the arc) and six rebounds on the night.

Again, in each of App State’s wins over DI opponents Shabazz has scored at least 15 points. There’s additional firepower on this team but they’re at their best when Shabazz is also at his.

In the realm of team play, it was another solid night with Appalachian recording 17 assists on 23 made baskets. Overall, the Mountaineers have assisted on 85% of their field goals during the past six games.

Despite the continued periods of offensive frustration, when App State is scoring it happens most often within the framework of the scheme and with the help of a teammate.

APP STATE DEFENSE

Arkansas State is tough to deal with defensively. Their four-guard sets include a lot of motion and screening, which in turn requires great communication defensively.

Arkansas State also has a star in guard Devin Carter who, when he’s on or off, has spelled the difference in wins and losses.

We often cover the concept of turning defense into offense but sometimes it works the other way around. Appalachian’s offense forced Carter to the bench with two fouls in the first half, on the way to limiting him to three points before halftime. That, coupled with strong defense prevented Carter from getting into the flow all night.

Carter finished with just three points in the game, his lowest output of the season.

Unlike the Little Rock game, where App State let a strong first-half defensive performance devolve into a 45-point/54%-shooting second half in the loss, the Mountaineers carried their great team defense over against Arkansas State.

The Red Wolves scored only 25 points on 31% shooting after halftime, and their 57 total points were the fewest allowed by Appalachian in the past seven games.

Credit Tyrell Johnson who, despite a quiet night offensively, had a huge impact on the defensive end with six defensive rebounds (led the team) and three blocked shots.

THE NEWCOMERS

Same old Isaac Johnson performance; 10 points, six rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot in 20 minutes. You know our favorite Isaac stat – 40-minute adjusted is 20 points and 12 rebounds. Kelvin Robinson and Patrick Good didn’t have their shooting eye (combined 3-10 overall and 0-3 from the arc) but still combined for six assists, and both played solid defense against the weaving Red Wolves.

It was, however, a breakout game for Craig Hinton. He entered at the first media timeout and actually played mostly in the low post against their four-guard lineup. A baseline drive and slam at the first-half buzzer was waved off but fired Hinton up, and that carried over into the second half. His first three-pointer, at 12:58 to go, flipped a one-point Arkansas State lead to an App advantage, and the Mountaineers never trailed again. Overall he finished with six points, five rebounds, and assist and a blocked shot.

TURNAROUND

The winless monkey is off Appalachian’s back but there’s still a hill to climb. At 1-3 in the league, the Mountaineers are 2.5 games out of fourth place in the current conference standings, which is significant because it spells the difference between playing in the first round of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament in March or earning a bye.

Next up is a first-time meeting with Coastal Carolina who, despite going 5-8 in non-conference play, is currently in second place at 3-1 in the league. The difference in the records looks significant, where Coastal managed to scratch out close wins over Texas State and Little Rock, but the statistical comparison with Appalachian is very close.

At the end of the day, Coastal finished off two tight wins that the Mountaineers let slip away, against the same exact teams. This game promises to be another nail-biter.

POSTGAME PRESS CONFERENCE

HEAD COACH JIM FOX

GUARD RONSHAD SHABAZZ & FORWARD CRAIG HINTON


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