Appalachian State is in the midst of a six-game losing streak. Little Rock has lost six of their last seven, including four straight. Two teams in a must-win situation will often put on a great game.
It was yet another tight game, where Appalachian led 63-62 with 4:17 left in the game. From there, the Mountaineers were outscored 14-5, shooting just 1-6 overall to finish the game while Little Rock went 4-6 from the floor.
Little Rock, a team which normally makes around six three pointers per game on 34% shooting from the arc, made 9-16 (56%) against Appalachian. That alone made up over 35% of the Trojans’ points that day.
But it was that late App State slump, after shooting 10-20 from the floor to that point in the second half, that dropped Appalachian to 0-3 at that stage of the season.
Griffin Kinney led App with 14 points and 10 rebounds, Ronshad Shabazz scored 12, and Pat Good was 3-4, all from the arc, for nine points. But, the Mountaineers failed to contain Little Rock’s top three scorers, as Marcus Johnson, Jr., Deondre Burns, and Lis Soshi combined for 51 of Little Rock’s 76 points (67%) that day.
Little Rock limited Shabazz, App State’s leading scorer, to just 10 shots in the game and his 12 points were the third fewest in a Sun Belt game this season. Appalachian has to find a way to get Shabazz started early and give him volume.
Next, Kinney is coming off his least productive scoring game in league play this season, and the Mountaineers require his production in the scoring column. Kinney also needs to get more effective at spotting kick-out options when the now inevitable double teams come his way. That seems to be the book on him around the league.
Tyrell Johnson also hit the Trojans for 14 points in Boone, and his production can certainly be a huge boost to this offense. Johnson has posted the two highest scoring games of his career in the past four games, but has yet to put up double-figures in back-to-back games.
Interestingly, the first Little Rock game could’ve signaled the demise of Craig Hinton’s spot in the rotation, as it was his only “did not play” of the season. At the time, he was averaging about eight minutes and 2.3 points per game. Since then those numbers have more than doubled and Hinton gives App a very different physical presence when he’s on the floor.
Little Rock is going to force App State to shoot from the perimeter against their zone look, and that means that either/both Emarius Logan and Pat Good could be the ultimate difference-maker. They will quickly double Shabazz and Kinney, leaving someone else open to do the damage.
Not only are these two teams coming in with similarly desperate situations, they’re very comparable statistically in most areas of the way they been playing. However, there are a few areas that could spell the difference in the outcome.
- Offensive Rebounds: Appalachian is the better of the two by a significant margin and in a game that promises to be low scoring that matters even more so. App missed this opportunity during the loss in Boone.
- Turnovers: Little Rock operates with a plus-margin in conference play and App State continues to struggle at nearly minus-four per game. Again, in a game where scoring will likely be limited giving away possessions is even more damaging.
- Three-Point Shooting: By averages, App is the much better team from the arc, but as noted earlier Little Rock made 56% in Boone and matched the Mountaineers with nine triples. As a reference, Little Rock has averaged just six three-pointers per game on 32% shooting in their other league games.
But, again (and I hate to keep harping on this) hitting 70 points is a key. Neither team quite averages 70 but both are allowing that much in league play. The Mountaineers have to find a way to contain Marcus Johnson, Jr., who ravaged Appalachian for 20 points in just 26 minutes the last time they played.
Assuming a primary lineup featuring Hinton, expect App State to spend more in that sizable 2-3 zone and force Little Rock to work around a Hinton/Johnson (Tyrell or Isaac)/Kinney front line and limit Johnson from driving the ball at will.
LITTLE ROCK 69 – APP STATE 66