TIGHT TURN: LA-MONROE RECAP/LOUISIANA PREVIEW

Another second-half collapse for Appalachian State in an all too familiar refrain and against what was thought to be the worst team in the Sun Belt. That it happened is bad enough but to happen at home is doubly painful. Now the Mountaineers face the other Louisiana foe and do so having never beaten the Cajuns. With Sun Belt Tournament play looming App State needs to quickly create momentum.

There’s really not much to say that hasn’t been covered before. Appalachian State played winnable basketball in the first half of a Sun Belt game only to come out in the second half, fall victim to an early run, and let a potential victory slip away.

That it happened to a Louisiana-Monroe team with just one conference win was certainly notable, but that it keeps happening is the real concern.

No use in belaboring the details, if you want to see the list of previous failures you can reference our prior postgame article HERE. It covers the previous eight Sun Belt games where App State either led or was within very reasonable distance of an opponent, only to come out of the halftime locker room in body but neither spirit or mind.

Of course, credit LA-Monroe; they made a smart adjustment relative to the way Appalachian was defending them, their guys started hitting some shots, with App spread out defensively they got all over the offensive glass, and the Mountaineers struggled shooting the ball as they had in the first half.

But, App State gift wrapped another win for a league opponent by not showing up to start a second half. When does it end?

Better be quickly, here comes Louisiana.

LOUISANA RAGIN CAJUNS

Jay Wright: The 6’1” point guard has stepped up his scoring game with the graduation of some other leading scorers. In addition to leading the Cajuns in assists, Wright is also the top scorer at nearly 16 points per game in league play. He and App’s Pat Good share the exact same three-point shooting stats and Wright is just solid. Good thing Kelvin Robinson is back.

Frank Bartley: BYU transfer at shooting guard has come in and made an immediate impact, averaging almost 15 in conference games Bartley is as likely to break defenders down off the dribble inside the arc as shoot from beyond it, but is very capable at either. He also gets on the glass at nearly five boards per game, he just seems like an effective all-around player.

Bryce Washington:Man, more Bryce Washington? In four career games against Appalachian, Washington has averaged nearly 13 points and seven rebounds in those Cajun wins. Washington is an active and powerful 6’6” and just has a nose for the ball. It will take a group effort to contain him, including the strength of Griffin Kinney and the athleticism of the Johnsons.

Justin Miller: Big (6’7”, 250) true freshman who has come in and made an impact with 11.3 points and 4.7 rebounds in conference games. Miller is very solid in all phases offensively; 57% inside the arc, he doesn’t shoot many from three but does make 34%, and is a 73% free-throw shooter. Here’s the guy that App loses track of sometimes that ends up killing them.

Jonathon Stove: Another familiar Cajun face, the 6’4” swing man is powerful and another solid player in all facets. Stove is a guy who doesn’t necessarily break your back statistically (though he did have 10 points, four assists, and three rebounds in a win over App last year) but he fills in the gaps that make differences in a game.

Jerkius Davis/P.J. Hardy:6’6” and 6’1” respectively, Davis and Hardy fill in the rest of the primary rotation. Louisiana runs a pretty tight seven-man set with the leading three scorers logging 30-35 minutes per game. At the end of a long season with that kind of wear and tear you wonder what kind of legs those guys have left, especially on the Monday of a two-game turn.

GAME ANALYSIS

Eh, at this point it’s hardly even worth discussing the opponent App State is facing. Their biggest challenge right now is occurring within the Mountaineers’ own locker room.

During this three-game losing streak, Appalachian has outscored its opponents by a combined 98-85 in the first half of those losses. Only once did they trail at the half and that was by a single point. They're playing winning basketball.

But, in the second half of those same games App State was outscored 153-106. That’s an average second-half deficit of over 15 points and 51 points allowed per half/game.

Even as the Mountaineers’ scoring increased by 8% on average in the second-halves of those games, their defense melted down each time. Is an offensive adjustment or two by opposing teams that disruptive to a defense that allowed an average of less than 30 points in the first halves of these games?

What happens at halftime in the App State locker room?

Regardless, the locker room is the coaches’ domain. It’s where they control the environment, tactically and emotionally. We’ve seen the impact of effective coaching in the halftime locker room over the past three games, unfortunately it’s come from the other side.

Yes, Appalachian has a young team. But, we’re 27 games into the season. Freshmen are basically sophomores at this point, sophomores are juniors, juniors are…well, you get the idea. We’re at the point where it matters that the Mountaineers fall into the same traps and patterns game after game.

You know, it was only two weeks ago that App State stood their ground at home and took down Sun Belt co-leaders in back-to-back games. It seems so far in the past with these three straight losses, but it was just 14 days ago. And, without starting point guard Kelvin Robinson.

The remainder of this season belongs to everyone in the Appalachian State locker room – players and coaches alike – but Head Coach Jim Fox is truly in the spotlight. It’s time for him to push, pull, lift, throw, etc. this team up to that next level somehow.

There has to be a plan, and it has to start consistently working.

LOUISIANA 75 – APP STATE 67


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