AFTERMATH: APP STATE vs. COASTAL CAROLINA

Another Sun Belt road game, another competitive Appalachian State performance, another scoring drought (or two), another tight game within six points late, and another Mountaineer loss. The refrain is familiar but the circumstances change. The absence of a key defensive player showed as App State allowed Coastal Carolina 12 points over their average and from unexpected contributors.

If all you do is look at the box score from Appalachian State’s 85-73 loss at Coastal Carolina you’d think Jaylen Shaw (20 points) sunk the Mountaineers. Indeed, he generated the final scoring margin, but until just 1:44 remained in the game Shaw had only 12 points against his 17.0 Sun Belt-play average.

Rather, it was 15 points from Shivaughn Wiggins, who averages 10 points per game, 12 from Amidou Bamba, who averages five, and 19 from Elijah Wilson, who averages 14, that wrote the result.

Any one of them alone doesn’t break Appalachian, but together they produced 17 points above than the norm.

So, What Went Down?

APP STATE OFFENSE

Appalachian shot just 38% from the floor, 29% from the arc, was missing their assist-leader in injured Kelvin Robinson, and still scored 73 points. There was nothing spectacular about App’s offensive game and the Mountaineers still scored 73.

Just to give you some scale to this, last year’s Mountaineer team scored at least 73 in just 13 of 31 games. At Coastal Carolina they shot the ball poorly and were missing the starting point guard, and still scored 73.

This is a team that can score. But, they do it in explosive bursts mixed in with some perplexing scoring droughts.

- Trailing 20-18 with 11:44 remaining in the first half, still very much in the game, App State didn’t score again for the next 4:39. By that time, they trailed by 12.

- Conversely, to start the second half, down 44-33, App State went on an 11-3 run in just 3:57 and climbed right back into the game.

The cliché is that basketball is a game of runs, but App State takes it to mind-numbing proportions.

One key to that second-half outburst may have been a lineup change. After starting Jake Babic in place of Robinson to begin the game, Head Coach Jim Fox swapped in Pat Good for Babic and went a step further with Isaac Johnson replacing Tyrell Johnson after halftime.

Good’s mere presence on the floor changes the spacing for opposing defenses. The result was a three-possession string that saw Ronshad Shabazz, Good, and Emarius Logan nail consecutive three-pointers.

But, then it hit again. A Logan three-pointer with 14:43 remaining in the game cut the deficit to 52-48, and Appalachian didn’t score again until 10:57. The Mountaineers trailed 60-50 and got no closer than six the rest of the way.

Appalachian also started the game really well playing inside-out, with Griffin Kinney and Tyrell Johnson scoring 10 of the Mountaineers’ first 18 points (eight from Johnson) in the paint or at the free-throw line.

73 points with schizophrenic offensive consistency. It makes one wonder what Appalachian’s offense is ultimately capable of producing.

APP STATE DEFENSE

When Coastal Carolina star Jaylen Shaw was whistled for his second foul just 8:01 into the game he sat down with just five points and Appalachian trailed just 20-16.

There could be no better sight for App State than to see the Chanticleers’ offensive catalyst sitting on the bench.

Yet, with Shaw out Coastal changed their offensive approach, and their ball-handlers started attacking App’s guards off the dribble. This is where Robinson’s absence became immediately apparent.

As noted earlier, Coastal’s supporting players produced like stars. Wiggins took over for Shaw and his driving threat drew help defense, opening up the lane for Bamba and Demario Beck.

For a Coastal team that normally gets well over 80% of it’s scoring from the backcourt, by halftime the frontline had scored 14 points.

Also, the drive and kick offense was working even without Shaw, as Wilson was spotting around the arc and scored 15 first-half points.

Still, knowing that Coastal lives at the three-point line, the Mountaineers did a good job of checking Coastal from deep. Appalachian held Coastal to seven three-pointers, two below their average, and were actually plus-six in scoring from the arc for the game.

But, with Robinson out and Mountaineer guards simply unable to prevent Coastal’s guards from penetrating, the Chanticleers scored 28 points in the paint and paraded to the free-throw line (24-34). Those two elements added up to a 10-point Coastal advantage.

Fueling their additional offense were also extra possessions; Coastal out-positioned App State for 13 offensive rebounds, typically a Mountaineer specialty. The Mountaineers count on creating a scoring gap via offensive boards and did so against Coastal, but only by two points.

Coastal adjusted to what App was allowing defensively and it spelled the difference in that game>,/p>

THE NEWCOMERS

It’s unknown at this point how long Kelvin Robinson might be out. It’s an injury that caused Robinson to leave the win over Arkansas State and probably requires more medical follow-up back in Boone. Pat Good was solid; eight points, three rebounds, and had one of his better playmaking games with three assists. Isaac Johnson charted nine points and nine rebounds, though he was mysteriously trigger-happy from the arc (1-4).

As expected, Craig Hinton got extended minutes and produced six points (2-4 from the three-point line) and seven rebounds. He did rush some short-range looks where he can be even more effective if he slows down, but his role has clearly grown.

TURNAROUND

Because App State and Coastal are Sun Belt-designated “travel partners” it means that the Mountaineers don’t have a Monday turnaround game.

Good thing, because the next weekend features a wicked Georgia road trip, to league-leading Georgia Southern and Georgia State (combined 6-2 in league).

And, once again I have to ask; who did Fox or Doug Gillin irritate in the Sun Belt office? Appalachian opens conference plays with five of seven games on the road.

Is it any wonder that the only other Sun Belt teams to have played as few home games as App State, those being Troy and Louisiana-Monroe, have combined with the Mountaineers to start league play 3-10?

Yeah, sure that scheduling flips around in the back half of the schedule, but what damage has been done by then? In Appalachian’s first two seasons the league did a much better job of maintaining balance in home vs. road games, but the impact of being the extreme northern outpost in the conference has shown this season.

Nothing can be done about that now, but Appalachian is in desperate need of at least a road split next weekend. Starting Sun Belt play at 1-6 would be difficult to overcome.


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