Mountaineers fall to Tar Heels

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Tim Cowie - Tim Cowie Photography

Appalachian State at 7/7 North Carolina in men’s non-conference basketball action at Dean E. Smith Center on Monday, December 21, 2015 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Carolina defeats the Mountaineers 94-70.

Colin Tate

Appalachian State traveled to Chapel Hill Monday night to take on the seventh ranked Tar Heels, losing by a score of 94-70. The Mountaineers have now lost five straight games.

“It’s the consistency that’s mind boggling,” Appalachian State head coach Jim Fox said. “If we would have played like this in some of the other games then our record would be different.”

Senior forward Brice Johnson scored eight of North Carolina’s first 10 points, helping the Heels complete a 13-3 run to start the game. With those points, Johnson tied the school record for consecutive shots made over a two-game span with 16.

Turnovers were the story early for the Mountaineers, as the team gave the ball away six times in the first nine minutes of the game. Those turnovers resulted in 13 Tar Heel points.

As the first half continued, the Mountaineers started to improve their defensive play, causing North Carolina to miss nine straight field goals. Even with the strong defensive effort, Appalachian State still trailed by 11 at halftime.

The Tar Heels then showed the Mountaineers why they are one of the best teams in the country, starting the second half on an 11-3 run.

As the game wore on, turnovers continued to be a factor, with the Apps tallying 18 by the end of the contest.

App State did have some bright spots in the loss, the main one being freshman guard Ronshad Shabazz. Entering the game averaging 8.5 points per game, Shabazz scored a team-high 21 points, 18 of them in the first half.

“I don’t think they really thought I was a factor,” Shabazz said. “They focused in on Frank, and that definitely helped me. I took advantage of it.”

Senior guard Frank Eaves still managed to score 13 points and senior forward Michael Obacha added 12 as the only other Mountaineer players to score in double figures.

“Frank is a load to guard,” North Carolina head coach Roy Williams said. “He was a focus of our defense because he’s averaging 20 a game and everybody else is less than double figures.”

Johnson led the Tar Heels in points with 22 and also notched nine rebounds.

Throughout the game, the Tar Heels were more aggressive than the Mountaineers, driving the ball to the basket and drawing fouls. North Carolina shot 85 percent on 27 shots from the free throw line, while App State shot only 13 free throws all game.

“At the end they just kept going inside on us, and it wore us out,” Fox said.

Fox said that the team needs to learn from the tough games against North Carolina and Texas, and use them to make progress, stating otherwise it would make no sense to play a difficult non-conference schedule.

With the loss, the Mountaineers fall to 2-9 on the season. Appalachian State plays at Louisiana Monroe to begin their conference schedule on Dec. 31.

“I don’t think our record is indicative of the kind of team we are,” Fox said. “I’m looking forward to giving our guys a little break and then come back and get ready for the next 20 games in the Sun Belt.”

Story by: Colin Tate, Sports Reporter