Appalachian State comes to the end of the 2016-17 season slumping, both on the court and just in general. The team’s demeanor on the court hasn’t looked good the past two games and it showed in the results. This is a team that, even in the midst of losing earlier in the season, never went down without fighting for 40 minutes.
Lately, the fight has wavered.
In facing Coastal Carolina both teams are playing for Sun Belt Tournament seeding advantages, but with very different prospective outcomes. Coastal could end up playing their way into a first-round bye with the right seemingly endless set of additional circumstances. Appalachian is playing to stay out of 12th place.
How much fight will App State have with primarily pride riding on the outcome?
Appalachian fell at Coastal Carolina 85-73, in the first game after losing Kelvin Robinson to a knee injury and Coastal exploited the absence of the Mountaineers’ best backcourt defender. Guards Jaylen Shaw and Elijah Wilson combined for 39 points on 10-20 from the floor and 6-13 from the arc.
But the real difference makers were actually overachieving Chanticleers Amidou Bamba (averages 4.3 points but scored 12) and Shivaughn Wiggins (averages 10.1 but scored 15). Between them they provided the margin of victory, or defeat based on your bench location.
Meanwhile, App State scored 73 points despite ineffective 36% shooting and was excellent at the free-throw line (16-20) but was simply unable to defend Coastal well enough, allowing them to score nearly 14 points over their season Sun Belt average.
First, App State must defend effectively, starting with the assignment on Shaw. Having Robinson back and playing close to 100% helps immensely there.
Next, Ronshad Shabazz has to have a big game offensively. He broke out of a five-game/12.4 point average slump this past weekend with 18.5 points in the two losses, but was the only Mountaineer to score in double figures in either game.
And that’s most important factor, Appalachian has to produce as a team. Ideally on both ends of the court, but at least on one. Only once in the past six games has Appalachian allowed less than 75 points. Only twice in those same six games did the Mountaineers score more than 75 points, and they won both.
This team has to start playing as a team again.
App State is going to play another Sun Belt team that they’re capable of beating. The game will be played on the same court where the Mountaineers have beaten three of the league’s top four teams.
The Sun Belt is a solid basketball conference with good teams and yet none are out of Appalachian’s league. The Mountaineers have repeatedly found ways to take themselves out of games – games they had legitimate chances to win.
The chances to win those games have reached their end for this season. One more game in Boone and then a one-game season begins in New Orleans.
The season is almost over for App State. How they’re going to finish is not only still to be determined, but is within Appalachian’s control…if they will take control.
COASTAL CAROLINA 74 – APP STATE 68