Apps suffer “punch in the gut” at home


Guard Ronshad Shabazz led the team with 17 points.

Tyler Hotz

Following a close loss on the road at Charlotte on Monday, the App State men’s basketball team was looking to get a win against former SoCon rival Western Carolina, who they have not played against since their move to the Sun Belt following the 2013-14 season.

After a slow, back and forth first half, the Mountaineers’ (2-5) poor shooting percentage in the second half ultimately drove them to a 58-53 defeat at the hands of the Catamounts (3-5).

With Western Carolina taking a 31-30 lead into halftime, the Catamounts and Mountaineers both struggled to find an offensive rhythm, which only worsened in the second half.

The Catamounts shot only 24.1 percent from the field in the second half, but the Mountaineers were even worse, making only three field goals and shooting an abysmal 14.3 percent.

Forward Isaac Johnson goes for a dunk during the first half
Forward Isaac Johnson goes for a dunk during the first half

“We had point blank layups and just didn’t make them, and I don’t know how that happens,” App State head coach Jim Fox said. “As the game goes on and you’re missing easy shots you get tighter.”

After App State took a 40-36 lead on a layup by junior forward Griffin Kinney with 14:16 remaining, the Apps would not make another field goal until 38 seconds remained on the clock.

Sophomore guard Ronshad Shabazz was the Mountaineer to break up the almost 14 minute field goal drought with a three-pointer. Shabazz started the game with five straight points, but he struggled after that, shooting only 1/15 from the field following his first two baskets.

“We got the shots we wanted and we just didn’t convert,” Shabazz said. “It was mostly on us.”

Shabazz’s 3-pointer brought App State within two of Western Carolina with 38 seconds remaining. After the teams traded foul shots, the Mountaineers found themselves down three when sophomore guard Emarius Logan missed a layup from point blank range with 12 seconds left, allowing for the Catamounts to come down with the rebound and ice the game away at the other end.

Guard Emarius Logan
Guard Emarius Logan

Rebounding has been a strength for the Mountaineers all season, totaling more rebounds than five of their first six opponents. App State looked to again control the game on the boards, but a second half surge by the Catamounts on the boards propelled them to a 42-40 advantage.

“[Sophomore forward] Mark Gosselin’s energy and effort on the boards and defense in the post was off the charts,” Western Carolina head coach Larry Hunter said. “I also went to our freshman [forward] Adam Sledd who has barely played and he gave us some really good minutes and hit a key basket.”

The win was the third straight for the Catamounts over the Mountaineers, and it also dropped the Mountaineers to their third straight loss.

“It was a win we really needed, and I bet it was one they needed too,” Hunter said. “I thought my kids really responded well, and our defense was outstanding tonight.”

App State will take an eight day hiatus from their schedule, facing off next with Montreat College in a home matchup on Dec. 11.

“It would definitely be good to take a little break from basketball and get our heads right,” Shabazz said. “This break should definitely help us, and we will come back swinging and ready to fight.”

Story By: Tyler Hotz, Sports Reporter

Photos By: Braxton Critcher, Photographer