Appalachian willing to keep hope alive

Andrew Clausen

The Appalachian State men’s basketball team (12-14, 8-7 SoCon) played its last road games of the season against conference-leading Elon University (18-8, 11-3) and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (7-18, 5-9).

Although a hard fight, the Mountaineers lost to Elon (61-58) Thursday, but were able to bounce back and get a win at UNCG (76-68) Saturday. Splitting the two games would have Appalachian still chasing the top spot in conference. They are now tied for third in the north division.

A back-and-forth game against Elon had Appalachian leading late, but a costly turnover and foul sent Elon to the free-throw line to help them seal the deal.

Unlike with Elon, the UNCG game was full of runs. Appalachian went up early, with a 14-2 run but the Spartans was able to come back within one point (24-23).

Appalachian had a one point lead and extended the lead with a 9-2 run to widen the gap to eight points (65-57). Free throws down the stretch would help Appalachian seal the victory.

40 minutes of play

The Mountaineers made a name for itself by making the last five minutes of a ballgame very interesting. The biggest lead they had when playing Elon was 21-14 in the first half, but Elon quickly went on a run to take the lead at halftime.

In the second half, the Mountaineers held a seven-point lead (54-47) with 4:23 left to play. Defense and good offense would be the key for the next few minutes, but that was lacking.

Appalachian only made one field goal in the last 4:23 and allowed Elon to score eight field goals.
It almost happened in the UNCG game.

The Mountaineers had leads of 10, 11 and 12 points in the first half but could not keep that lead the rest of the game. With 5:55 left on the clock, Appalachian had only a one-point lead (55-56). Appalachian clamped down on UNCG, forced some bad shots and won the game by eight.

‘”After Elon we learned that pain can be a valuable teacher,” head coach Jason Capel said. “We talked about our goals and what we have to play for and for 40 minutes we were dialed in. We played as a team and are focused on the next three games at home.”

Conference Implications

Appalachian failed to move up with its .500 roadwin percentage. Elon was on a two-game winning streak after beating Appalachian and beat Western Carolina Saturday to extend that streak. Both Elon and Appalachian plays second-placed Samford in their last three games of the season, so Appalachian could possibley move up to the second spot, but has to get through the Citadel first in their first meeting of the season.

The Citadel is at the bottom of the conference, standing at (6-19, 3-12). They have lost four-straight games. Its three conference wins came against Furman, Wofford and Georgia Southern, who are all at the bottom of the South Division.

Appalachian is 3.5 games back from Elon with three games remaining on the schedule. They can only finish in second place behind Elon, which will still give Appalachian a first-round bye.

App State’s first mission will be to win, because Western Carolina, Samford and Western Carolina are all in the running for the first-round bye.

Capel said they are focusing on the games at hand and not about the tournament.

“We’re not finished yet,” Capel said. “We are going back home where we been really good this year. We need all the Mountaineers fans there to cheer us on so we can win these next three games and get a first-round bye. Then we will see what we can do in the tournament.”

Appalachian returns home Wednesday to play The Citadel at 8 p.m. at the Holmes Convocation Center.

Story: JAMES ASHLEY, Sports Reporter