In Appalachian State’s recent loss to Texas State, the Mountaineers reverted to old issues that they had seemingly moved as the Sun Belt schedule shifts into the second-half rotation. Appalachian came out very flat and fell behind early. They then battled back and pulled the game to within a couple of possessions. But, the game ended when App State struggled through a six-plus minute scoring drought.
Missing key players, Appalachian simply hasn’t been able to muster enough defense, let alone offense, to win of late.
To that last thought, App State won the previous game against Arkansas State on defense. App held the Red Wolves to their worst Sun Belt scoring total of the season on 35% shooting, and Ark State didn’t help themselves any with a 14-25 day at the free throw line.
But, Appalachian hasn’t played a defensive game like that one since, allowing 82 points per game during the losing streak.
The Mountaineers’ tendency to turn defense into offense has struggled as well. But, still App State is battling. They’ve not stopped competing and have always had opportunities to win these conference games.
App also had one of their better games at the free-throw line that day, going 16-22. In the lost weekend sweep against Texas teams, Appalachian could manage just 27-49 (55%) from the line.
Taking a lesson from the win over Arkansas State, in addition to defense the Mountaineers had more balanced scoring. Ronshad Shabazz got his, with 18 points, but he had help from Emarius Logan (12) and Isaac Johnson came off the bench for 10. Shabazz is receiving more and more defensive focus and other Mountaineers simply have to step up.
Griffin Kinney was effective in that first win, going 4-4- from the floor, but his opportunities were limited for just nine points. Since then, is averaging 11 points and seven rebounds per game, but has pushed those averages to 13 and eight in the last three games. In short, be intentional about working the ball to Kinney today.
The Arkansas State games was also the last time App State three-point shooting hit 40-plus percent, at 8-19, but since the average has been 34%. Teams have started packing back in on Appalachian inviting the perimeter game over drives, especially from Shabazz, and to limit Kinney, so additional Mountaineers, led by Logan, have to step up and knock down these shots.
But, this game will be much like the first, in that it’s defense that will determine the winner.
Arkansas State has been one of the league’s stingiest defenses, allowing just 68 points per game in league play. Yet, it was the Mountaineers who dominated that end of the floor in Boone.
And, as we harped on before the Texas State loss against an equally as sticky defensive team, getting to 70 points is an indicator of success. Ark State is scoring over 76 points per game at home in Sun Belt games, so even 70 will likely not be enough without solid defense, great rebounding (where the two are reasonably even), and limited turnovers.
The 40-point performance that has eluded App State since the Arkansas State win will be necessary if they’re to sweep the series.
ARKANSAS STATE 77 – APP STATE 69