By David Coulson. February 23, 2019. BOONE, NC — If one game could epitomize the struggles of the Appalachian State men’s basketball team during the 2018-19 season it was Saturday afternoon’s 92-69 loss to arch-rival Georgia Southern in a Sun Belt Conference clash at the Holmes Convocation Center.
COVER IMAGE: O’Showen Williams (4) drives the lane. All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News
BOX SCORE & SLIDESHOW OF IMAGES AT BOTTOM
For the second game in a row, the Mountaineers (9-18 overall, 4-10 in the SBC) fell behind early behind porous defense, sloppy offensive execution and turnovers, but this time couldn’t dig themselves out from that big deficit as the Eagles (18-10, 10-5) rolled to victory.
Tookie Brown, GSU’s talented senior point guard, created much of the havoc with 28 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals to lead the Eagles and guide the win.
Simeon Carter was a force early in the paint, scoring 14 points in the first half on 7-of-8 shooting in just seven minutes of playing time before getting into foul trouble. He finished with 18 points, four rebounds and two blocked shots after playing only 13 minutes.
“The thing that hurt us is we couldn’t stop them and it got them into their (full-court) pressure (on defense),” App State coach Jim Fox said later. “Everything they did frustrated us and it carried over to the offensive end.”
Georgia Southern shot a sizzling 54.5% for the contest and built its lead to 52-34 at the intermission on Brown’s long three-pointer before the buzzer, but a brief 2-for-10 shooting lapse in first six minutes of the second half gave Appalachian a glimmer of hope.
The Mountaineers closed to within 10 points at 57-47 with 14 minutes left on two Ronshad Shabazz (12 points) free throws before the rally ran out of gas. Then the Eagles regained their shooting form and outgunned App State the rest of the way.
“I didn’t expect this at all,” said GSU coach Mark Byington of a series that usually features down-to-the-wire finishes. “I didn’t sleep last night, worrying about this game. Our defensive intensity got us into it.”
But Byington had little to fret about with Brown’s stellar performance as the pint-sized, 5-foot-11 terror shredded the Mountaineers.
“It was (Brown’s) last road game,” Byington explained. “He wouldn’t talk to anyone before the game. He was that focused.”
Fox admitted his squad had few answers for the dynamic Brown.
“First of all, he’s really good,” Fox said. “He’s probably as good a player as there is in the league. He knows how to make decisions.”
Brown and his teammates also thwarted Appalachian’s talented backcourt of Shabazz and Justin Forrest (15 points), holding that duo to 7-of-25 shooting on a day the Mountaineers hit 32% from the field. The Mountaineers were 1-of-13 from three-point range in the second half and 5-of-25 (20%) behind the arc for the game.
“I don’t think we made the shots we normally make (and) we didn’t shoot well at all,” said ASU center Hunter Seacat, who had nine points and six rebounds. “Georgia Southern is a tough team to guard and (Brown) gave us problems.”
With the loss, Appalachian remains tied with Troy for last place in the 12-team conference, a game behind Arkansas-Little Rock for the final spot in the Sun Belt tournament next month.
With a 1-11 road record, the Mountaineers hit the road to Louisiana-Monroe on Thursday and Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday before closing the regular season the following week at home against Troy and South Alabama. Appalachian swept the two Louisiana schools at home earlier this season.
SLIDESHOW By David Rogers for Blowing Rock News