By David Rogers. March 3, 2018. BOONE, NC — Senior Night for Appalachian State men’s basketball could hardly have been better scripted. Mountaineer senior Craig Hinton got his first start of the season and responded with the a game-high 20 points, while senior power forward Griffin Kinney burned the nets for 18 en route to Appalachian State’s thrill-a-minute, 76-67 win over Coastal Carolina at the Holmes Convocation Center in front of 1,437.
All photographic images by Bill Barbour for Blowing Rock News
With the win and losses elsewhere in the Sun Belt by Troy and Louisiana-Monroe, all three ended with 9-9 conference records for the regular season. Appalachian State, however, was awarded the #5 seed for next week’s conference tournament in New Orleans based on the in-place tiebreakers.
Hinton’s step-up performance was important in this game as the Mountaineers’ star guard Ronshad Shabazz was well guarded in the Chanticleers’ defensive scheme. Shabazz still managed 11 points, but it was Hinton’s 7-of-10 shooting from the field, including 3-of-6 from behind the three-point arc that proved the difference maker against Coastal. Also in double figures for Appalachian State was forward Tyrell Johnson. The big man’s 10 points also featured one dagger from long distance at the 5-minute mark of the first half, putting the Mountaineers ahead by seven, 31-24.
Demonstrating his versatility, Hinton also recorded a team-high 10 rebounds, four of them coming on the offensive end to extend Mountaineer possessions. Kinney added 8 rebounds, nearly recording a double-double for his final Holmes Center appearance.
The game started out as the defensive battle it was advertised to be, with Kinney drawing first blood nearly a full minute into the game on one of his patented turnaround floaters from in front of the basket. From there the two teams traded tenuous leads until Kinney, known more for his gritty inside play, knocked down a three-pointer at the 15:47 mark to give the Mountaineers an 8-6 advantage. It was a lead they would never again relinquish, even if the Chanticleers always seemed able to claw back to within reach.
The Mountaineers’ stifling defense limited the Chanticleers’ star guard Jaylen Shaw to just 13 points, which was matched by teammate Tyrell Gumbs-Frater’s 13 in coming off the bench. Another Coastal reserve, Zac Cuthbertson, added 10 points and 9 rebounds in 28 minutes of court time.
In earning the #5 seed for the Sun Belt tournament next week at Lakefront Arena, the Mountaineers will meet #12 Arkansas-Little Rock, a team they defeated twice in the regular season. The most convincing win was a 72-67 affair at the Holmes Center on January 27th, before a nail-biter, 69-67 victory in Little Rock on February 24th.
Appalachian State finished the regular season at 9-9 in Sun Belt play, 14-17 overall. Little Rock was 4-14 in conference play, 7-24 overall.
With the loss, Coastal Carolina finishes at 8-10, 14-17, and received the #8 seed. The Chanticleers will play #9 Texas State in Game 1 of the tournament.
First round Sun Belt tournament byes were earned by the top four regular season finishers, #1 Louisiana (16-2, 26-5), #2 Georgia State (12-6, 21-10), #3 Georgia Southern (11-7, 20-11), and #4 Texas-Arlington (10-8, 19-12).