By David Rogers. March 4, 2017. BOONE, NC — It was deja vu all over again, only worse. Just like in the two teams’ previous meeting at Coastal Carolina, Appalachian State women’s basketball mounted a big first half lead Saturday afternoon at the Holmes Center, then collapsed in the second half to lose a nailbiter to the Chanticleers, 56-53.
COVER IMAGE: Mountaineer senior guard Joi Jones drives around Coastal Carolina sophomore guard Kennedy Archer in defense. All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News.
Perhaps fueled by the pride of Senior Day, the Mountaineers jumped out to a 7-0 lead, then led by 8 points (13-5) just four and a half minutes into the first quarter. They built on the momentum in the second period, leading by 18 (32-14) with just two minutes to go before it was time for the nearly 500 fans to refill their popcorn buckets at halftime.
It got worse for the Chanticleers before it got better. App State junior guard Madi Story drove the lane for a layup and was fouled in the process. Her free throw not even two minutes into the second half put the Mountaineers up by 19 (37-18), their largest lead of the afternoon.
And then the nightmare crept in, as Coastal Carolina narrowed the gap at 6 (46-40) by the end of the third quarter, then tied the game at 51-51 with 3:52 left in the game. The Lady Apps poked ahead a couple of times before CCU took a first lead (55-53) on a jump shot by senior guard Alexis Robinson. Then the visitors from Conway, SC played strong, disruptive defense, not allowing the Mountaineers to get a good look for the remaining time.
At Conwayon January 14th, the Mountaineers led by 12 as late as 3:34 to go in the third quarter before giving up the lead to Coastal Carolina for the first time with just a little more than two minutes remaining in the game. The Chanticleers never looked back, taking that one 60-55.
In her post-game press conference, Appalachian State head coach Angel Elderkin gave a nod to Coastal’s halftime adjustments, indicating that they came out much more physical in the second half and her athletes did not adjust very well.
“Coastal did a great job at halftime,” Elderkin noted, “but I also feel that we let halftime be our opponent. We went in at the half and felt good, then we come out in the third quarter. They start getting really physical with us. We start (complaining) instead of getting punched and getting back up. We kind of laid down.
“That’s a team that we are going to face again in (72) hours (in the first round of the Sun Belt Conference tournament in New Orleans),” she added. “So we have to learn from (today) and regroup. We’ll be fighting for 40 minutes. Maybe we’ll take a different approach.”
Elderkin admitted that although her Mountaineers led by 14 at the half, she was not happy about the way they finished the first stanza in giving up a 4-0 run to the Chanticleers.
“They went into the locker room with momentum,” the head coach observed, “and then they came out very physical with us in the third quarter and it frustrated us. That is exactly what they did to us down at their place in January: the physicality, the trapping, the talking. It gets in our players’ heads and we have to be better than that.”
App State did a much better job in the first half of making shots, shooting almost 50% from the field even though they were just 1-of-7 from beyond the 3-point arc. As a consequence, they only pulled down 6 offensive rebounds in the first half. In the second half, primarily because of the Chanticleers’ disruptive defensive play, the Mountaineers were not shooting as well. They gathered in 10 more offensive boards in the second half, but even their second and third chance shots in the paint were not falling.
Meanwhile, Coastal Carolina shot 50% (4-of-8) from long distance in the second half which helped fuel at one point a 23-6 run to narrow the deficit and take the lead. They were also 12-of-15 from the charity stripe in the second half, while App State was 0-for-5 from behind the 3-point arc after halftime and shot a dismal 37.5% (3-of-8) from the free throw line in the 4th quarter alone.
Mountaineer senior Ashley Bassett-Smith (center) and Joi Jones (guard) took game-high scoring honors with 13 apiece, while App State junior guard Madi Story tied with Coastal’s Robinson for game-high honors with 10 rebounds apiece.
Appalachian State will try to learn from this game, but need to quickly put the second half collapse behind them. As the #9 seed, they play in Game 1 of the Sun Belt Conference women’s championship tournament on Tuesday against #8 seed Coastal Carolina at 12:30 pm (EST), with the game to be televised on ESPN3. The winner will face top-seeded Arkansas-Little Rock on Thursday, 12:30 pm (EST).
The tournament is hosted at Lakefront Arena in New Orleans, LA. The top four seeds all receive a first-round bye, including #1 Arkansas-Little Rock; #2 Texas-Arlington; #3 Troy; and #4 Texas State.
2017 Sun Belt Conference Championship Schedule
Tuesday, March 7 (First Round)
G1: No. 8 Coastal Carolina vs. No. 9 Appalachian State, 12:30 p.m. (ESPN3)
G2: No. 5 Louisiana vs. No. 12 ULM, 3:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
G3: No. 7 Georgia State vs. No. 10 South Alabama, 6:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
G4: No. 6 Georgia Southern vs. No. 11 Arkansas State, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN3)
Thursday, March 9 (Quarterfinals)
G5: No. 1 Little Rock vs. Winner G1, 12:30 p.m. (ESPN3)
G6: No. 4 Texas State vs. Winner G2, 3:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
G7: No. 2 UTA vs. Winner G3, 6:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
G8: No. 3 Troy vs. Winner G4, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN3)
Saturday, March 11 (Semifinals)
G9: Winner G5 vs. Winner G6, 6:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
G10: Winner G7 vs. Winner G8, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN3)
Sunday, March 12 (Championship Game)
G11: Winner G9 vs. Winner G10, 7:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
All Game Times are Eastern Standard Time and Subject to Change without Notice.
2017 Tournament Seeds and Sun Belt Records
1. Little Rock (17-1)
2. UTA (13-4)
3. Troy (12-6)
4. Texas State (11-7) *
5. Louisiana (11-7)
6. Georgia Southern (9-9)
7. Georgia State (8-10) **
8. Coastal Carolina (8-10)
9. Appalachian State (6-12)
10. South Alabama (5-13)
11. Arkansas State (4-14)
12. ULM (3-15)
* Texas State and Louisiana finished with identical 11-7 league records. The teams split the season series so we look at their winning percentage against Little Rock, the next highest seed. Louisiana was swept by Little Rock while Texas State was the lone team to defeat the Trojans; therefore, Texas State earned the No. 4 seed and final bye.
** Georgia State and Coastal Carolina finished with identical 8-10 league records. The teams split the season series so we look at their winning percentage against Little Rock, the next highest seed. Both teams dropped games to Little Rock this season so we move onto No. 2 UTA. Georgia State defeated UTA in the teams’ only matchup while Coastal Carolina dropped both games against UTA, therefore Georgia State earned the No. 7 seed.