By David Coulson. BOONE, NC — The last time Appalachian State played Coastal Carolina in men’s basketball, the Mountaineers dug an 18-0 hole from which they couldn’t be excavated.
COVER IMAGE: Final scoreboard…All photographic images by Bill Barbour for Blowing Rock News
Trying to stay in the hunt of next month’s Sun Belt Conference tournament and take advantage of their three-game home stand, the Mountaineers needed a different approach Saturday afternoon at the Holmes Convocation Center — and they responded by thumping the Chanticleers 88-79.
With six players combining for eight or more points, led by Ronshad Shabazz’s team-high 20, Appalachian (9-16 overall, 4-8 in the SBC) kept the pressure on CCU (12-12, 6-6) throughout as 2,037 fans voiced their approval.
Among the crowd were a significant number of ASU basketball alumni, including such stars as Daryl Robinson (the 1979 Southern Conference tournament MVP and the leader of the Mountaineers’ first NCAA tournament squad) and Tony Searcy, as well as the 2018 Mountaineer football team, all of whom were honored at halftime.
This nurturing environment seemed to bring out the best in the current edition of the Mountaineers. And the key from start to finish was exploiting a strong advantage inside the paint.
“It’s great playing at home,” said forward Isaac Johnson, who tallied 14 points and eight rebounds despite being saddled with foul trouble. “The team is always energetic at home. It’s a different mindset.”
Center Hunter Seacat (eight points, four rebounds, three blocked shots) powered in ASU’s first two buckets in the key and the Mountaineers were off and running. Sloppy play and poor shot selection hampered App State at times and the Chanticleers grabbed a 16-8 lead, but then the App State five went back to work and reestablished control.
Another lapse, late in the first half helped CCU regain the advantage, 32-30, at the intermission before an 8-0 run to start the second half put Appalachian in front for good. Back-to-back treys by Shabazz and Justin Forrest (18 points and eight rebounds, even though the sophomore guard suffered through a 9-for-18 day at the free-throw stripe) keyed that burst.
Tyrell Johnson and freshman Adrian Delph added to the balance with 11 points apiece as the Mountaineers made it difficult for Coastal Carolina to focus its defense on one weapon. Appalachian shot 54% from the field.
Meanwhile, App State’s defense was superb for almost the entire contest, limiting the Chanticleers to 38% shooting, including 23% from three-point range.
“We’re digging out of a hole and you have to keep digging,” said coach Jim Fox. “I’m pleased with the way we played defense. I’m excited about the game on Thursday night.”
The Mountaineers continue their home stand on Thursday at 7 p.m. against Georgia State before meeting arch-rival Georgia Southern at 2 p.m. on Saturday to complete the important three-game stretch.