Round one in Arlington actually started well for App State. The Mountaineers jumped up 6-0 at the beginning and maintained a lead for all but 22 seconds of the first 14:35 of the game. Then, the drought hit – 5:50 without a point. Still, even with the miserable production the defense was solid enough that Appalachian trailed by just four at halftime.
Unfortunately, the offensive stupor came out of the halftime locker room with the Mountaineers. Long story short, from the 7:56 mark of the first half until a media timeout with 13:43 left in the final half App State was outscored 28-14.
From that point on, it was an evenly played game, but that meant that Appalachian trailed by double-digits for nearly the entire remainder of the game. There was nothing extraordinary that UTA did, but rather it was unexceptional offensive execution by the Mountaineers that sealed the result.
Pat Good carried the App State offense on an otherwise frigid shooting day, going 7-12 from the floor with all seven makes from the arc. The rest of the lineup could manage just 16-47 overall (34%) and 2-20 from the three-point line, as UTA just packed into the paint and dared App to make perimeter shots.
For starters, Appalachian isn’t struggling with the offense of late like they were in the first three games of conference play. In starting 0-3 the Mountaineers averaged just 65 points per game, but in the past four that average has jumped to 74.
However, with the temporary loss of Kelvin Robinson App State’s defensive dynamic has changed for the worse. App has allowed 83-88 points in three consecutive games, with opposing point guards gashing the defense.
App State did an effective job of containing UTA point guard Erick Neal for much of the game (3-12 from the floor) but may have to consider changing up defenses between man and zone more often this time around.
Ronshad Shabazz is on a tear in the past four games, averaging 22.3 points per game and shooting nearly 40% from the three-point line. With the defense struggling of late the Mountaineers will need another big scoring contribution from one or two other players. As noted, Good provided punch at UTA, despite a dreadful game at Georgia State Emarius Logan scored in double-figures in the three previous games, and both Griffin Kinney (12) and Tyrell Johnson (career-high 22) produced at Georgia State.
UT-Arlington didn’t do anything devastating to App State in the first game. The Mountaineers simply spent too much time playing from behind after the aforementioned scoring drought.
First, the defense has to be better than it has in the last two weeks. Neal uses penetration to force help and he knows how to find teammates for easy baskets (UTA had 46 of their 84 points in the paint last time).
Next, the Mountaineers have to own the boards. UTA averages around 57-58 shots attempts per game but had 67 in the win over Appalachian, on the strength of their 14-9 offensive rebounding edge.
Finally, App has to be aggressive on offense. A key supplement to the increased scoring average of late is that Appalachian has been getting to the free-throw line 22 times per game over the past four. UTA scoring punch gets pretty skinny if you can force foul trouble among their starters.
With Robinson out Appalachian will have to score on their recent pace (75-plus) to win this game. It would be reasonable for App State to pack back into a zone that jams the paint and force Arlington to win it from the outside, where they’re shooting less than 30% from the arc in conference games, but that’s counter to the Mountaineers’ tendency.
UTA has lost two of three conference games against teams with a combined 7-7 Sun Belt record and average just 70 points per game (13 below their conference scoring average) in road losses. However, they come in on a three-game winning streak, most recently including a 37-point home blowout win over Louisiana.
UT-ARLINGTON 77 – APP STATE 72