If ever App State needed a win it’s now at 1-4 in Sun Belt play, and Southern looks as though they can’t be beaten, at 5-0 in league.
Georgia Southern has scored 75 points or more in seven of their last eight games, and the Mountaineers have allowed more than 75 in three of the past four.
Appalachian has to slow this game down, play tough and grinding defense, and guard the three-point line like their season depends on it – which is looking more like the case.
GEORGIA SOUTHERN EAGLES
Ike Smith: Quick-trigger swing man leads the Sun Belt in scoring at 19.6 per game. Smith does most of his work inside the arc (71% of shots are twos) and he does it well, with a 54% two-point percentage. Smith is still an effective three-point shooter and leads the Eagles in free-throw attempts, as well. Will App State staff be willing to throw some zone at Smith and Southern?
Tookie Brown: Brown blistered Appalachian last season, averaging 26 points per game on 52% shooting. He also works more inside the three-point line but is a more frequent shooter from the arc than Smith. Brown has also broadened his role as offensive catalyst with a 1.7:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. With Appalachian’s Kelvin Robinson out again defending Brown gets much tougher.
Mike Hughes: The veteran has accepted a reduced role as the third scoring option for the Eagles’ 3-4 guard offense. If Appalachian is going to hedge defensively then Hughes is the shooter you allow to pull the trigger. But that doesn’t mean he can’t sting you, as he hit App State for 15 points per game on 50% shooting in the two games last season.
Jake Allsmiller: Sometime starter and designated three-point shooter is fourth in the Sun Belt with 43 makes at the arc. It’s really all he does, so allowing Allsmiller cleans looks from three is inexcusable. Attack him as a defender and be committed to that approach, because a tired shooter is generally an inaccurate one.
Montae Glenn: At 6’8”, 230 Glenn is the enforcer who handles the dirty work down low, but as such he’s the most foul prone, as well. In order to control pace and stress Southern’s post defense the Mountaineers have to exhibit patience and commitment to the inside game. He’s a hesitant offensive threat, but keep him off the offensive boards (44 this season).
B.J. Gladden/Shawn O’Connell: Frontline reserves combine for 11.5 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. Both get after it on the glass and Gladden is actually very effective at getting to the free-throw line, shooting a FT for every 4.9 minutes of court time (best on the team). These are not physical defenders, so force them to defend down low.
APP STATE MOUNTAINEERS
Ronshad Shabazz: Despite averaging 15.4 points in conference games Shabazz is still struggling from the floor (38% overall and 33% at the arc), and has only shot 12 free throws in five league games. Last season Shabazz had 29 points against Southern in Boone, but just three on 1-10 shooting at Statesboro.
Griffin Kinney: App State needs for Kinney to continue his recent stretch of strong play to be successful in Statesboro. First, because the Mountaineers need to run patient and purposeful possessions and, next, because Southern struggles to guard the post. The Eagles are also weaker on the glass, so Kinney and App have to attack there.
Emarius Logan: Logan has to shoulder the additional stress of running the team with Robinson out, as well as potentially defending Brown. In the process, Logan has to remain committed to his offense, as Appalachian is likely to need every point they can muster. Again, running additional zone would protect Logan from foul trouble and spare him from Southern’s run-and-gun game.
Tyrell Johnson: Johnson scored eight points in the first 8:16 of the loss at Coastal Carolina, but was scoreless the rest of the game. When he’s “on” Johnson can be as effective and disruptive as anyone on this team. Staying switched on for 40 minutes has been a challenge in his young career, but Appalachian will need him to upset Southern.
Isaac Johnson: Johnson is averaging nearly eight points and seven rebounds in conference play, and the Mountaineers will need all (or more) of both at Georgia Southern. Teams have started intentionally scouting Isaac and are working to force the ball out of his hands before he can face up, meaning he needs to start making quicker decisions with the ball.
Patrick Good: In Robinson’s absence Good’s contributions become even more significant, especially defensively. Everyone knows what he’s capable of from the three-point line but opponents are attacking Good off the dribble. Until Robinson returns Appalachian needs to step up collectively in the backcourt on defense.
Craig Hinton/Jake Babic: Babic also has to bring his game up in Robinson’s absence and in the Coastal Carolina loss Appalachian was minus-12 with Babic on the floor. He simply has to be productive on this road swing. Hinton can pose an interesting defensive challenge at Southern but he has to remain aggressive with his offense.
To win at Georgia Southern Appalachian has to do several things very well, better, in fact, than they have been of late.
Take Care of the Ball: Southern loves to get out and run off turnovers, where they force over 15 a game. Appalachian is currently 11th in the league in turnover margin.
Guard the Three-Point Line: Brown and Allsmiller, in particular, have to be managed defensively. Appalachian has struggled late in the shot clock in allowing dagger threes in league play.
Rebound, Rebound, Rebound: This is Southern’s Achilles, and App State had been a very effective rebounding team until Sun Belt play began. Appalachian has to own the boards.
And, of course, one of those 3:00-4:00 minute scoring droughts is probably fatal for App. Georgia Southern can score from three different positions (Smith, Brown and Hughes combine for 54 points per game in Sun Belt games).
GEORGIA SOUTHERN 77 – APP STATE 67