By Nathan Ham
For the second straight game, the Appalachian State Mountaineers will be tested by a tough Atlantic Coast Conference opponent when they take on the UNC Tarheels tonight at 7 p.m.
Last Thursday, App State (6-6) traveled to Durham to take on #2 ranked Duke. The Mountaineers battled back from an early hole and got to within five points early in the second half (53-48), but Duke would be able to pull away after that and secure a 92-67 victory. App State outrebounded the Blue Devils, 31-30 and held a 13-7 edge on the offensive glass. The Mountaineers also outscored the Blue Devils 19-12 in second chance points.
Michael Almonacy led Appalachian with 17 points and Justin Forrest added 16 points. James Lewis Jr. had 11 points and seven rebounds and the team’s leading scorer on the season, Adrian Delph, had 10 points, six assists and four rebounds.
“I thought we got off to a really good start. I thought we battled. We responded in the second half. We didn’t finish the first half like we wanted, but we responded to start the second half and went on an 11-3 run to force a timeout,” said Appalachian State Head Coach Dustin Kerns. “We’ll be proud of the way we battled. I learned that I have a good team and that we’ll battle.”
The Mountaineers travel to Chapel Hill and will face a Tar Heel team reeling from a 98-69 defeat at the hands of #20 Kentucky on Saturday night. The Wildcats led by as many as 35 points.
This will be the first meeting between UNC and Appalachian State since December 21, 2015 when the Tarheels defeated the Mountaineers 94-70. The Mountaineers are 0-6 all-time against UNC.
UNC has five players that average double-figures in scoring, led by guard Caleb Love’s 15.5 PPG. Armando Bacot is averaging 15 PPG, RJ Davis is averaging 12.8 PPG, Brady Manek is scoring 12.5 PPG and Dawson Garcia is averaging 11.6 PPG.
Tipoff tonight from the Dean E. Smith Center is at 7 p.m. and the game will be televised on ACC Network.
The rest of the season, the Mountaineers will turn their focus to the Sun Belt Conference as conference play begins at home on December 30 against Louisiana. App State will look to defend their Sun Belt Conference Tournament Championship that put them in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2000.
January begins with a home matchup with UL-Monroe on New Year’s Day. App State will then be on the road for five of its next six games, starting with trips to South Alabama (January 6) and Troy (January 8) before a return home to face Coastal Carolina on January 13. The Mountaineers face Coastal Carolina two days later, this time on the road. After that, the Mountaineers go to Georgia State on January 20 and Georgia Southern on January 22. The team wraps up play in January at home against Arkansas State (January 27) and Little Rock (January 29).
February opens with two road games in Texas, first against Texas State (February 3) and then UT Arlington (February 5). The Mountaineers come back home for four straight games at the Holmes Convocation Center. Georgia Southern comes to town on February 10 followed by Georgia State on February 12, Troy on February 17 and South Alabama on February 19. The Mountaineers finish the regular season at Little Rock on February 23 and Arkansas State on February 25.
The Sun Belt Tournament is scheduled for March 3-7 and will be played at the Pensacola Bay Center in Florida.