Offensively, App State knew they could physically manhandle Southern in the paint, and they pounded the ball inside early. The Mountaineers took a 6-5 lead, with all of the scoring from big men Tyrell Johnson and Griffin Kinney, but then briefly lost focus (two missed three-pointers and two turnovers) and went down 14-6.
Then, App fed Kinney for a score and free-throw and the Mountaineers outscored Georgia Southern 8-6 over the next roughly five minutes. It wasn’t pretty either way in the first half (11 Appalachian turnovers and 12 for Southern), but App State stayed committed to the inside game and Kinney led the way with 14 of the team’s 24 first-half points in the paint.
With 9:36 remaining in the first half, Georgia Southern’s Tookie Brown, the Sun Belt’s leading scorer in conference games, posted his 12th point of the half to give the Eagles a 23-17 lead. At that point, the Mountaineers turned up their defense.
Brown was held scoreless for the next 18:56 of game time, during which Appalachian built a 60-45 lead. With Brown’s penetration and outside threat temporarily silent, the entire Georgia Southern offense struggled.
From there App State was able to milk the clock with patient possessions and timely scores to maintain their lead, until Georgia Southern started fouling late in the game. Then, led by Emarius Logan, who went 7-8 at the free-throw line in the final 2:06 of the game, the Mountaineers salted away the 83-78 victory.
So, What Went Down?
APP STATE OFFENSE
Ronshad Shabazz had torched Georgia Southern in the first meeting this season, scoring 36 points, so everyone knew he would receive the defensive focus. Using Shabazz’s presence to spread the floor offensively, the Mountaineers repeatedly went to Kinney inside and he delivered.
Kinney backed down physically overmatched defenders all night on the way to a career-high 25 points on 6-10 shooting from the floor and 13-20 at the free-throw line. Kinney also led the team with nine rebounds and three offensive boards.
App State’s 36 points in the paint were the most in Sun Belt play this season and their best in a game since mid-December.
Shabazz, again pestered by extra defenders, had a second-straight tough shooting night (though he still contributed five rebounds and led the team with four assists), but his threat and Kinney’s presence inside opened the perimeter for other Mountaineer shooters.
Minus Shabazz’s 1-5 shooting from the three-point line the rest of the lineup shot 43% from the arc, led by Pat Good with 11 points on 3-4 three-point shooting.
There were key scores from several individual players that look small on a single line in the box score but combined for a significant impact:
- A Jake Wilson layup at 12:12 of the first half, his only two points of the game (and in the past three games) cut the Georgia Southern lead to three.
- Craig Hinton nailed a three-pointer with 1:04 remaining in the first half to extend the Mountaineer lead to 39-30, and then had a buzzer-beating putback to seal the 41-33 halftime lead.
- Bennett Holley came off his best performance of the season in the Georgia State win and buried a three-pointer with 13:53 remaining in the game to push App State’s lead to 12.
- A Jake Babic layup, his only make of the night, came at 4:49 to build the Mountaineer lead to 71-57.
These were the only scores for these four players in the game, but they combined for 12 critical points and at important times.
Every Mountaineer that played also scored.
APP STATE DEFENSE
As noted, Brown was lethal early and scored 20 late points (mostly at the end as App State was avoiding fouls), so his 32 points might look tremendous but when the game was truly being decided he was being held in check.
Appalachian held four Southern post players to 14 combined points and limited third-leading scorer Mike Hughes to seven points on 2-8 shooting.
Not only did App State force 17 Eagle turnovers, they converted those into offense with 19 points.
Appalachian also controlled the boards for most of the night, outrebounding Southern 42-39.
Isaac Johnson was as active as ever, forcing Georgia Southern into tough defensive situations with his face-up driving game. Johnson finished with seven points and nine rebounds, and was a demon defensively with four steals and a blocked shot. As noted, Pat Good hit three three-point shots and also took over much of the late-game ball-handling.
Craig Hinton had those quick five points at the end of the first half, which were his only scores in the game, but also contributed some tough defense, grabbed four rebounds, and had a steal in 17 productive minutes.
Now, with momentum and confidence brimming, App State takes their first Sun belt winning streak of the season back on the road for a doubleheader in Alabama.
It begins on Saturday at South Alabama, which was obliterated 87-61 at Louisiana in their last game, yet is 8-5 at home this season.
App State has only beaten South Alabama once in four games and never in Mobile, but they are on an offensive roll that finds the Mountaineers averaging 80 points with 21 total three-pointers in their past two games.
POSTGAME PRESS CONFERENCE
HEAD COACH JIM FOX
CENTER GRIFFIN KINNEY & GUARD RONSHAD SHABAZZ