The Mountaineers lost a heartbreaker on Saturday, losing 60-59 to the Georgia Southern Eagles. Poor shooting numbers was the killer for the Mountaineers on the afternoon, finishing with just a 31.7 percent clip from the field and less than 20 percent from the arc. Despite this, App State held a slim lead for most of the game, leading 25-21 at halftime and 49-40 with just over nine minutes left to play.
It was at this point that the Mountaineers started to lose touch, allowing Georgia Southern to go on a 20-10 run during the last nine minutes and going 3-11 on field goal attempts down the stretch.
“I saw us getting a lot of open shots and missing,” head coach Jim Fox said. “I thought we got great looks, similar to the other night, but for some reason right now, our two main scorers are really struggling.”
The Mountaineers started out strong in the second half, going 4-6 from the floor and 3-4 from the 3-point line during the first five minutes. They made only one of 13 attempts from 3-point range in the first half. However, they cooled down quickly going 3-11 from the field and 1-5 from the arc during the next eight minutes.
There were several positive performances for App State junior guard Ronshad Shabazz, who lead the team with 17 points, going 7-9 from the free-throw line and adding five rebounds. Sophomore forward Isaac Johnson had a tremendous afternoon, scoring nine points while grabbing 11 rebounds, a steal and blocking three shots, a season-high.
“Every time one of my teammates shot the ball, my mind was just ‘go get the ball,’” Johnson said. “I know that they’re going to make some shots. That’s what I want them to do, but not everybody hits, so I just want to go get the ball.”
While App State lost the game, they did have the chance to win. After Johnson made a layup to make it 60-59 with 39 seconds left, Eagles’ guard Mike Hughes tried to penetrate the lane and hit a game-sealing layup, but he missed.
With seven seconds remaining, App State freshman Justin Forrest grabbed the defensive board and passed the ball up to Shabazz. The Mountaineers opted not to use their last timeout to set up their offense in favor of going with the flow of the game. Shabazz got a good shot, one of his most open looks of the afternoon, but missed the attempt.
“I don’t know how much a timeout would have helped us [since] we got an open shot,” Shabazz said. “I kind of rushed it because I didn’t know how much time was left. I shot it as quick as possible, so I could get it off.”
The final shot was symbolic of the Mountaineers afternoon: open, but failing to fall in. App State’s Sun Belt record fell to 3-3. They will need to greatly improve their shooting in order to defeat Troy on the road on Jan. 18. The Trojans have won two of their last four Sun Belt matchups, including a victory against Georgia State, who beat the Mountaineers by double digits earlier this week.
Story By: Brooks Maynard, Sports Editor
Photo By: Lindsay Vaughn, Senior Photographer