The Appalachian State women’s basketball team took the court for the first time Saturday, defeating Lenoir Rhyne 51-45. It was the team’s first action since their loss to Arkansas State in the conference tournament last year.
The theme for this game was defense, defense and more defense. The Mountaineers totaled eight steals and seven blocks in the game, completely controlling the paint. They held Lenoir Rhyne to 18 of 64 shooting from the field, a mere 28.1 percent.
The defense was led by senior forward KeKe Cooper, who led the team in rebounds and blocks the game eight and three, respectively. Standout guard Joi Jones led the way in the steal department with three, while also chipping in a team-high of nine points.
It was early on in the first quarter that the Mountaineers established a foothold on the Bears. A 3-pointer from sophomore guard Katelyn Doub gave the Mountaineers a 12-6 lead with a little under five minutes left in the first quarter. From there the defense really started to take over as Cooper forced the steal with 52 seconds left in the first quarter leading to a Kaila Craven layup to put the Mountaineers up 16-9.
Lenoir Rhyne was able to cut the lead down to three after a Marie Ritchie jumper, putting the score at 22-19 with 3:20 left in the half. Then it was right back to their defensive ways. KeKe Cooper had one of her three blocks with roughly a minute left in the half, and the Mountaineers closed on a 7-0 run, capped by a Joi Jones 3-pointer at the buzzer, to enter the half up 29-19.
The Mountaineers maintained the aggressiveness as they started the third quarter off with a Mia Marshall And-1. The quarter was again dominated by defense, as the team held Lenoir Rhyne to 25 percent shooting.
The fourth quarter began and ended with more of the same. Senior guard Farrahn Wood made a 3-pointer with 2:34 left in the game to put the Mountaineers back up by 11. Lenoir Rhyne kept it close late with a bunch of offensive rebounds and late game fouls, which kept the score a lot closer than the game appeared.
Head coach Angel Elderkin was pleased with the team’s effort during the game, noting nerves as being a key to some miscues. She was especially pleased with the progress of the defense, but noted that there’s a lot of work still to do.
“We’ve spent a lot of time on defense,” Eldurkin said. “It’s nowhere near where it needs to be but I think we’re ahead of where we were last year.”
The Mountaineers forced 18 turnovers during the game, and Elderkin was complimentary of her team’s block totals, noting the intelligence her post players have. She was also impressed by the amount of steals her team generated.
“We’re not up pressuring a ton so I’m kind of surprised we were able to get eight steals, but we’ve put a lot of time into our defense this year,” Elderkin said.
Despite the win, Jones and Cooper noted the disparity in the rebounding and a need to take care of the ball.
“Defense was probably my best even though I let a couple drives go by, just gotta be quicker on my feet,” Cooper said. “I need to go to the boards more, and I need to take care of the ball better.”
Jones emphasized getting better at defense and going to the boards. She also stressed controlling the tempo of the game, as she felt the team rushed shots throughout the game.
“It’s something I need to take care of,” Jones said.
The Mountaineers will begin regular season action Friday at home against Liberty. Tipoff is set for 11:30 a.m.
Story by: Cameron Vaughn, Sports Reporter