Appalachian State peeled the peach state last weekend with back-to-back wins over Georgia State and Georgia Southern. In doing so, the Mountaineers averaged 80 points per game, despite a colder-than-average shooting weekend from leading scorer Ronshad Shabazz (32% overall and 3-15 from the arc).
It’s significant that Appalachian managed those games through shared production:
- In the wins over the “Georgias,” every App State player who took the court also scored.
- There were 32 assists on 50 made field goals (64%) in the two wins.
- With opponents spread out to address multiple scoring threats, Appalachian was able to attack the basket more often and shot 58 total free throws during the two wins.
Even as Shabazz struggled with his shot his teammates took advantage of the extra defensive pressure on Ronshad to get their own clean looks from the perimeter, as they combined to shoot 45% from the three-point line in the wins.
Now, riding this newfound momentum, App State rolls into South Alabama looking for their first win in Mobile.
SOUTH ALABAMA JAGUARS
Ken Williams: He’s still here? Williams is “that guy” who feels like he’s been there forever, but that happens when a guy averages 20.3 points on 51% shooting against you over two seasons. Here’s the thing with Williams, he’s really not a great shooter but he’s a scorer. In the four games, Williams is shooting 62% inside the arc and 30% behind it. Guess where we want him shooting.
Josh Ajayi: Mammoth (6’7, 244) redshirt freshman who is averaging basically 13 points and seven rebounds per game in conference play, and has scored double-figures in 10 of 12 conference games this season. Despite his size he’s a versatile scorer who will even take one from the arc (37%) and he gets to the free throw line more than any other Jag. Make him to work away from the paint.
Nick Stover: Senior swingman averaged 8.0 points per game against Appalachian last season. Stover is an efficient shooter (45% FG, 36% 3FG, 81% FT) and a potentially dangerous scorer if you lose track of him. You want to make sure you keep him from getting off to a hot start because if he gets into the flow early he’s more likely to look for his shot.
Georgi Boyanov: Another “Him again?” candidate, Boyanov is 6’7”, very physical and extremely crafty around the rim. Boyanov has averaged a little over 10 points per game in three wins over App State. You have to get a body on him, stay in contact with him so he doesn’t slip underneath the basket for easy looks, and play him as physically as he’s going to play you.
Don MuepoKelly: Another big body (6’7”, 236), MuepoKelly is a true post player in that he won’t venture far from the basket on either end of the floor. He nearly shoots a higher percentage from the field (52%) than the free-throw line (56%), but he’s active on the glass and leads the Jags in blocked shots. App wants to get him out of the paint and face him up (Isaac Johnson) in open space.
Shaq Calhoun/Dederick Lee/Herb McGee: Calhoun is a designated gunner (58% of his shots are three-pointers) and Lee runs the point. Calhoun has no conscious and you want to stick him early or he can get into a rhythm. Lee isn’t a scorer (hasn’t scored double figures all season) but is efficient in running the offense (1.9:1 assist-to-turnover). McGee is a nice fill-in scorer/defender for about 20 minutes per game.
There are a couple of game keys that will play heavily into the outcome of this one:
- Rebounding: South Alabama is, statistically speaking, the worst rebounding team in the Sun Belt. App State has two of the top seven rebounders in conference play (Griffin Kinney 7.5, Isaac Johnson 7.4) and the Mountaineers’ offensive rebounding rate is one of the league’s best. Appalachian has to limit USA to one look defensively, and create extra possessions on the offensive glass.
- Turnovers: South Alabama lives off of them, with a nearly plus-four turnover margin per game. They force nearly 16 per game and lead the league with 7.9 steals per game, both in conference play. Stat of the week for you – Appalachian is 3-10 in Sun Belt play; in the 10 losses they were negative-margin in turnovers in every game, in the three wins they were even or plus-margin each time.
Force Williams to shoot from the perimeter, create extra opportunities via offensive rebounding, and don’t give the ball away. Those three things likely equal the elusive road win and extension to a three-game winning streak.
South Alabama has lost five of their past eight, allowing 76 points per game during the stretch. Appalachian comes in averaging 75 over their past four games.
APP STATE 76 – SOUTH ALABAMA 73