By David Rogers. November 11, 2017. BOONE, NC — As season openers go, this one could hardly have been better scripted. Appalachian State zoomed past NCAA Division II challenger Toccoa Falls in Saturday’s 2017-18 men’s basketball season opener, 135-34, setting a few program records along the way.
COVER IMAGE: Isaac Johnson goes up for thunderous dunk. Photographic image by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News
That’s not a misprint. The final score was a 101-point margin of victory, easily surpassing — and nearly doubling — the previous best margin of victory by an Appalachian State team set just last last year vs. Warren Wilson College. And, according to statistics kept by ESPN, it is also just the sixth game in Division I men’s basketball history to have a margin of victory over 100 points. App State’s 134 points topped the previous program record of 120 in a win over Wofford on December 7, 1977, almost 40 years ago.
Other men’s basketball program records:
- The Mountaineers made 50 field goals, bettering the previous mark of 49 set on February 13, 1978 against Chattanooga
- App State’s 20 three-pointers improved on the previous record of 17 set on January 27, 2006, against The Citadel
Every player on the Appalachian roster played double-digit minutes, and none scored fewer than four points. Seven players scored in double figures, including Griffin Kinney (13), Tyrell Johnson (14), Ronshad Shabazz (24, a game-high), Justin Forrest (15), Kevin Kerley (10), Trey Ford (15), and Craig Hinton (10).
Appalachian was impressive enough in the first half, finishing at intermission with a 63-16 lead. With a little more than 11 minutes to go in the second half, head coach Jim Fox inserted the last two players on the bench, Kerley and Ford, and they didn’t disappoint. To go with his career high 10 points, Kerley added 4 assists and a steal. In addition to his own career high 15 points, Ford contributed 5 rebounds.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Saturday’s performance was the selflessness with which the Mountaineers played. Every player that took the court against the mostly slower and shorter Screaming Eagles could have padded their numbers, but with few exceptions they each generously shared the ball. When Blowing Rock News asked Tyrell Johnson about that sharing mentality, he answered, “It’s what Coach Fox teaches us. It’s better to give up a good shot if there is a great shot available.” As a team, App State dished out 31 assists for the afternoon’s work.
The Mountaineers poured in a total of twenty 3-pointers in the game, 3 by Ford, 3 by Kerley, 3 by Shabazz, and two each by Johnson, Zach Cottrell, Justin Forrest, Nick Hough, and Hinton.
Against a much shorter opponent, the Mountaineers outrebounded Toccoa Falls, 76-24.
If there was an area of concern for the Mountaineers, it was the team’s 55% free throw shooting. Shabazz (5-of-5), Bennett Holley (2-2), and Ford (4-of-5) can hardly be faulted, but actually makes the rest of the team’s 4-of-15 (26.67%) look even worse.
Appalachian hopes to sustain the momentum of Saturday’s record-breaking win on Sunday when they face more Eagles, this time in hosting Bridgewater College, members of the NCAA Division III-level Old Dominion Athletic Conference as a preliminary part of the 2017 Puerto Rico Tip-Off tournament that begins Thursday in Conway, South Carolina (moved because of the recent hurricane damage in Puerto Rico). The Mountaineers’ first tournament match-up will be Thursday against Iowa State. Tipoff is 5:30 pm, on tournament host Coastal Carolina University’s home court.
Iowa State’s program dates back to 1907. For the 2016-17 season, the Cyclones finished tied for second in the Big 12 Conference with a league record of 12-6, 24-11 overall and made their sixth straight NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Tournament appearance.
BOX SCORE (Click to enlarge)