Special Report to Blowing Rock News from App State Sports. By Ben Winterrowd. January 29, 2016. TROY, AL – A pair of free throws from Ronshad Shabazz (Raleigh, N.C./Huntington Prep (W.V.)) with three seconds remaining sealed a victory for Appalachian State University men’s basketball. The Mountaineers bounced back in a big way with a hard-fought win on the road at Troy, 75-71, on Thursday evening.
The Mountaineers (6-14, 4-5 Sun Belt) were led offensively by the Sun Belt’s leading scorer, Frank Eaves (Greensboro, N.C./Page), who finished with 18 points on 5-of-13 shooting from the field and a perfect 7-for-7 from the charity stripe. The senior also knocked down one triple in the effort.
Also coming up big was the play of Jacob Lawson (Reidsville, N.C./Oak Ridge Military Academy/Purdue). Off the bench, Lawson netted a season-high 13 points and was a perfect 5-for-5 from the field and grabbed five rebounds. The Sun Belt’s leading blocker also swatted three more shots on the night.
Griffin Kinney (Delaware, Ohio/Fork Union Military Academy) posted a career night with 10 boards and narrowly missed a double-double as the sophomore finished with nine points. Matt O’Boyle (Peoria, Ariz./Sunrise Mountain/Pima Community College) was perfect from downtown with three three-pointers and also finished with nine points. App State’s bench outscored Troy’s by a 38-6 tally.
App State grabbed the lead early and trailed just twice in the opening half. Eaves’ lone three of the game got things going for the Mountaineers, who shot 48.2 percent (25-for-52) from the floor for the game. O’Boyle came alive with his two threes less than three minutes apart, while the latter gave the Apps a 16-11 lead with 10:46 left in the half.
Jake Babic (Oakville, Ontario/The Kiski School) and Bennett Holley (Roanoke, Va./North Cross) chipped in threes of their own. Holley’s first triple gave App State a 22-17 advantage at the 7:52 mark. O’Boyle’s third 3-pointer of the half put App State up 31-27 and the Mountaineers took a 35-31 lead into the break.
Troy began to grab momentum out of the locker room as the Trojans engineered a 13-4 run immediately following halftime, taking a 44-39 lead. App State didn’t give in, fighting back with a bucket from Michael Obacha (Edo State, Nigeria/High Point Christian) and Lawson to trail by just one point, 45-44.
The Black and Gold grabbed a 49-48 lead on a Babic three-pointer, but relinquished it 40 seconds later. A 7-2 Mountaineer run that included a Holley three was capped by an Eaves jumper that had App State in the lead, 56-54, with 9:05 to play in regulation. Troy tied the game at 56-56, but four-straight points from Eaves created some breathing room for Appalachian.
Lawson and Eaves then combined for six points and the Mountaineers found themselves once again ahead, 66-58, forcing Troy to call timeout. Over the next 3:33, the Trojans closed the gap and a tip-in from Jordan Varnado tied the game at 68-68, with momentum beginning to swing in favor of Troy.
With Trojan fans getting loud, Eaves drove the length of the floor, scored a bucket — and drew a foul. He capped the old-fashioned three-point play with a successful free throw and put App State back in front, 71-68.
With just 4.4 seconds left, both Eaves and Shabazz hit a combined total of four free throws to ice the game. The Mountaineer performance handed Troy its 15th loss this season and ninth in Sun Belt play.
The Mountaineers will return to action on Saturday, Jan. 30 when they travel to Mobile, Ala. for a league contest with the South Alabama Jaguars. Game time is slated for 8:05 p.m.