Coming off a close loss but tough performance against Davidson on Saturday, the Mountaineers men’s basketball team entered their second game in Knoxville knowing they would have to protect the basketball against a Tennessee team that is fast and can score the ball.
Starting off the game with a 11-9 lead, the Mountaineers (0-2) were playing the game at their pace, but flurry of turnovers put them into a deficit they could not overcome, ultimately falling to the Volunteers 103-94.
Turning the ball over 18 times, 15 of which came in the first half, the Volunteers (1-1) were able to capitalize on those App State turnovers and break open the game with a 21-0 that stretched over seven minutes in the first half.
Breaking the run came off a layup from sophomore guard Ronshad Shabazz, who finished the game with 21 points.
“We were definitely playing on our heals, and that caused a lot of turnovers in the first half,” Shabazz said. “In the second half we attacked a lot more, and we only turned the ball over three times.”
Looking like the Volunteers would blow out the Mountaineers, App State responded with a 22-6 run to close the half, cutting the lead to 50-38 at the break.
“We started attacking a little bit better and not playing on our heels,” App State head coach Jim Fox said.” When we do that we are a different team, [and] we can’t have a 21-0 run against [us] and expect to win against a team like Tennessee.”
Knocking down two 3-pointers in that run to close the half, the Apps were able to shoot four of eight from the 3-point line in the first half.
Leading the Mountaineers from behind the arc was freshman guard Patrick Good, who made his first six shots on the night, shooting a blistering 71.4 percent from three.
Good tied Shabazz with 21 points as the top scorers for the Mountaineers, but Good’s 80 percent shooting percentage from the field helped lead him in only his second game for the Black and Gold.
Playing high school basketball at David Crockett High School in Johnson City, Tennessee, Good was able to put on a show for many who came to watch him in his return to the Volunteer state.
“I feel like whatever floor that I step on that my job is to make shots for this team,” Good said. “I did my job, but obviously we lost, so we just have to come back and fight.”
While the Mountaineers excelled from outside in the first half, they allowed the Volunteers to convert six three pointers of their own.
In Tennessee’s first game against Chattanooga, the Volunteers only made one three pointer on sixteen attempts, shooting an incredibly low 6.3 percent from behind the arc.
Getting his first start for the Volunteers, freshman guard Jordan Bowden knocked down a three pointer to start the game, sparking the Tennessee offense from the perimeter. Bowden would finish with four triples on the night.
“In our first scrimmage, he hit four three-pointers, but he wasn’t defending the way he needed to,” Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes said. “The last couple days he has made a real, conscious effort to try to defend better, but we started him because he earned it.”
Shooting an impressive 42.1 percent from behind the arc, the Volunteers would end up making eight three pointers on the night.
“They’re going to be a good team and they have good players,” Fox said. “They had a bad night shooting [against Chattanooga], and we knew they would bounce back.”
Starting the half with a dunk by Robert Hubbs III, the Vols were able to halt the momentum of the surging Mountaineers.
Hubbs would finish the game with 16 points, which would lead the Volunteers on the night.
Continually chasing their first half deficit of 26 points, the Mountaineers kept trading buckets with the Volunteers, which was not enough to fully claw back into the game.
“At the beginning of the second half, they were kind of doing whatever they wanted offensively,” Fox said. “We are at our best when we push and start attacking, [but] we can’t go through those droughts and playing on our heels the way we did for too many minutes of the game really hurt us.”
While the Volunteers took a 23-point lead in the second half, the Mountaineers would not go quietly, embarking on a 17-6 run to cut the game to 99-92 with 57.1 seconds remaining.
“I’m proud of our guys for not surrendering and not giving up, but you can’t execute the way we did during their run and expect to win a game,” Fox said. “We didn’t come here to compete; we came here to win.”
After knocking down some foul shots and limiting App State’s chances, the Vols would close out the game, pushing their record against the Mountaineers to 5-0 all-time.
The Mountaineers will now head home for their first home game of the season against Warren Wilson College, which will tip off at 7 p.m. in the Holmes Convocation Center on Thursday.
“Hopefully we can get some energy in our building to come out and watch this team that’s going to be pretty darn good,” Fox said. “So get on board now and get out there and support us and we are going to have some good games as our schedule continues to grow.”
Story By: Tyler Hotz, Sports Reporter