After two tough losses in a row to Davidson and Tennessee to start the 2016-17 season, the Mountaineers men’s basketball team picked up their their first win of the season in a 119-51 route over Warren Wilson College.
Appalachian dominated in all facets of the game falling one point shy of the all-time scoring high in school history of 120 and scored the most points ever at Holmes Convocation Center. The win is the largest victory in App State men’s basketball history.
“We had a very spirited and long practice yesterday and they responded well to it,” head coach Jim Fox said. “I continue to be very impressed and pleased with this basketball team.”
Shooting a promising 57 percent from the field and 43 percent behind the three point line, ball movement and unselfishness helped the App State offense flourish in an impressive display of teamwork.
“I thought we really found the open man today,” Fox said. “That’s the way this team plays in practice it’s just bringing that over to the games and I thought we did a pretty good job of that today.”
App State jumped off to a 20-7 lead halfway through the first half and never turned back led by the early aggressiveness and athleticism of forward Tyrell Johnson who had 13 points in only 15 minutes played Thursday night.
In fact, junior Jake Babic, who only played 17 minutes led the team in minutes while 14 other players got minutes on the court in the win.
The depth of this App State team was present with the performance of the bench players as they combined for 74 points led by freshman guard Patrick Good with 16 points as he continues to impress Fox.
“He’s a smart kid with a good basketball IQ,” Fox said. “I’m very pleased with what Patrick brings to the table and he has earned the playing time he gets.”
Good’s ability to bring in immediate shooting and floor spacing off the bench for this team is an aspect that was missing last year, and this spacing brings along driving lanes for guards Ronshad Shabazz and Emarius Logan that have not been present before.
“Since the beginning of the summer we have been a great team, we’ve been great teammates and we’ve been sharing the ball and playing together so it’s fun playing out there with these guys,” Good said.
It’s not just Good that has been the improvement off the bench, but players such as Babic, senior Matt O’Boyle, freshman Isaac Johnson and redshirt sophomore Jake Wilson have stepped up and Fox is high on all of their abilities.
“All of those guys coming in off the bench I want them to give us that spark and give us that energy because I have confidence in them,” Good said.
Whether it was the bench or the starters in the win, App State dominated the game as expected and it all started with the domination in the paint.
The distinct advantage for the Mountaineers right from the start of the game was the size advantage, they outrebounded Warren Wilson 55-25, with 13 offensive rebounds.
Not only were there plenty of second-chance opportunities for App, but they forced 22 turnovers with their activity and length on the defensive side only allowing 51 points on 30 percent shooting from the field.
Fox was harping on the improvement of junior forward Griffin Kinney talking about his importance to the team in doing all of the dirty work on the court and leading by example, even if the stats don’t show it.
“How well is Griff [Kinney] playing right now?” Fox said. “Not forcing and I thought we really found the open man.”
Improved ball movement was something that is easy to notice compared to prior seasons of App State basketball with players such as Frank Eaves taking lots of shots on isolation plays.
That really slowed down the flow of the offense, and Thursday that type of offense was nowhere to be found.
Appalachian was led in assist by Babic with six and the offense had 40 made field goals in the game with assists coming off of 27 of those field goals.
Continued ball movement and positive activity from the bench may be the key moving forward for this Mountaineer basketball team.
The Mountaineers travel to take on Hartford (1-2) Wednesday at 2 p.m.
Story By: Adam Hothersall, Sports Reporter