By David Rogers. November 8, 2014. BOONE, NC — For a while, it looked like it would be shutout. Appalachian State women’s basketball opened the new head coach Angel Elderkin era by jumping to a 20-0 lead in the opening minutes of an exhibition game vs. Lees-McRae. Final score: Appalachian State 95, LMC 46.
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Led by senior forward Maryah Sydnor’s 21 points and 9 rebounds — both game highs — in just 23 minutes of time on the court, the Mountaineers dominated from start to finish in all phases of the game. Elderkin used 15 players in the exhibition, played in front of an announced crowd of 327. Sydnor’s final stat line: 21 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block, and 5 steals).
“We came out of the gate exactly how we want to play,” Coach Elderkin commented to Blowing Rock News afterwards. “We had a really great tempo. There were some fouls…(at one point) we lost some speed, but nonetheless we continued to play hard and worked through some things. We really looked to attack and be aggressive.”
In assessing her players, Elderkin added, “Really, what we saw on the court is what they’ve been producing in practice. I thought Ashley (Bassett-Smith) gave us six points off the bench that we probably weren’t expecting, but when we had players in foul trouble, we went with her and she was able to knock down shots. That’s what she brings to the table. She is a very good player. Very skilled.”
A forward, Bassett-Smith’s six points and three rebounds in just seven minutes of play were one of several bright spots for the Mountaineers. Junior college transfer Vernessa Hinnant, a guard, scored 12 points and hauled in 3 rebounds in 12 minutes of action — seven of them in the last four minutes of the second half.
Elderkin was candid in assessing Hinnant’s debut as a Mountaineer. “We know what she is capable of,” Elderkin said. “It’s just getting her to know how to play in the system. On paper (tonight), she scored 12, but defensively she missed a lot of rotations. Her scoring is good for the fans, but for the coaches she gave up a lot of points.”
Other strong performances came from KeKe Cooper (8 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, and 1 steal), Bria Huffman (7 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal), Bria Carter (9 points, 4 rebounds, 1 steal in just 17 minutes), and Katie Mallow (5 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and 5 steals in 18 minutes on the court).
Of her senior returnees and team leaders Sydnor and Mallow, Elderkin smiled, “They were great. I have to take some blame, though for Katie today. I was trying to prep her a little bit in the second half. I wanted to get her going, so we ran a play for her right out of the gate. Then I saw her pressing her shots, which just didn’t fall today, but she took good shots. They were open shots, they were good shots.
The team total of 20 steals reflects the punishing defensive pressure that Elderkin’s charges applied vs. the Bobcats from start to finish — and which contributed to that dominating, 20-0 start. Weak spots in Saturday’s App State performance included 1-for-10 three-point shooting in the second half, but the Mountaineers dominated on the glass, hauling in 55 rebounds (20 offensively).
Leading performers for the Bobcats were Kelsey Wypych coming off the bench for 12 points and three rebounds in 23 minutes of playing time, forward Taylor Collins with 8 points and 4 rebounds, and Kerri Belcher with a half-dozen points, a half-dozen rebounds, and four steals.
The Appalachian State women open the 2014-15 regular season on the road, at Kentucky in Lexington, 7:00 pm, on Friday, November 14th. On Wednesday, November 19th they’ll be a little closer to home, visiting Johnson City, TN to face East Tennessee State, also at 7:00 pm. The Lady Mountaineers’ first home contest will be on Saturday, Nov. 22, vs. UNC-Wilmington at the Holmes Convocation Center.