Mountaineers rip Chattanooga 86-60, earns first-round bye

Chelsey Fisher

One of the plays the men’s basketball team calls frequently is called “Basic,” and that’s just how they played as they kept things simple in their rout of Chattanooga 86-60.

From the tip, it was clear the Mountaineers (14-15, 10-8 SoCon) were determined to lock up the No. 4 seed in the Southern Conference and get revenge on its last game against the Mocs (13-18, 8-10).

App State lost 88-91 in overtime to Chattanooga on Jan. 17 in a game where they led by 19 at one point.

“I’ve said from the beginning I thought this was a good team,” head coach Jason Capel said. “Obviously, we let a game slip away that we’d love to have back, but I think that prepared us for today.”

The Mountaineers were red-hot in the first half, shooting 56.3 percent from both the field and 3-point land.

Both Jamaal Trice and Nathan Healy celebrated Senior Day in style, hitting three and four 3-pointers respectively on the night.

“Our focus at the beginning of the game [accounted for the hot shooting],” Trice said. “We’ve been focusing on this game since Thursday and we knew what we had to do when we came out and it just happened to go our way.”

In arguably their best half of basketball this season, App State led the Mocs 14-2 in points off turnovers, 14-4 in fast break points and 28-4 in bench points in the first half.

“We did a really good job of sharing the ball,” forward Jay Canty said. “I think guys did a good job of getting open and finding the right spot. We were just on fire tonight.”

Chattanooga would step up their defensive pressure in the second half, giving the Mountaineers some trouble, but the 34-point deficit was too much to overcome.

Canty led all scorers with 27 points, five rebounds and four assists. Healy had his seventh double-double of the season with 20 points, 14 rebounds, two blocks and three steals.

Mike Neal controlled the offense with 10 assists. He was one assist shy of moving into the university’s top-10 for all-time assists in a single game.

With just over a minute left in the game, seniors Trice and Healy left the game to a standing ovation of 1,894 fans. This was their final home game as Mountaineers.

“It’s not the end of the season yet, we’ve got three more games,” Healy said. “But today was a special day, no doubt about that. My teammates, the coaches, the fan; it was a special, special game and something I’ll definitely remember for a long time.”

Capel said that they don’t lose on Senior Day and that tradition held strong as they now have a week off before the SoCon tournament.

“That’s not something we do and I think our guys rallied behind that and really wanted to send these guys out on a high note,” Capel said. “I thought our focus was unbelievable today.”

The Mountaineers chanted “Three More” as they went into the locker room and that’s exactly how many wins are between them and being SoCon champions. They will play March 9 at 2:30 p.m. in Asheville against the winner of the Samford and Furman game.

Story: ANDREW CLAUSEN, Sports Editor