Mountaineers Fall in First Round to A-State

Published Thursday, March 10, 2016 at 10:40 am
Joi Jones tied her career mark with 28 points in the loss to Arkansas State on Wednesday in the first round of the Sun Belt Tournament.

Joi Jones tied her career mark with 28 points in the loss to Arkansas State on Wednesday in the first round of the Sun Belt Tournament.

Appalachian State University women’s basketball (10-20) was led by Joi Jones’ 28 points on Wednesday, but it wasn’t enough in an 81-61 decision to top-seeded Arkansas State (26-4) in the first round of the Sun Belt Tournament in New Orleans in Lakefront Arena.

Jones (Duluth, Ga./Duluth) tied her career mark on 11-for-21 shooting with two assists and two boards, while Bria Carter (Spotsylvania, Va./Spotsylvania) snagged her first double-double of the season and second of her career with 12 points and a game-high 11 boards. The duo combined for 40 points on 16-for-30 shooting. Ashley Bassett-Smith (Pickerington, Ohio/UT Martin) and Mia Marshall (Lilburn, Ga./Parkview) combined for 13 points and 11 boards off the bench.

Arkansas State delivered the first punch with a 7-0 spurt in the opening 1:45 of the contest until Jones drained a trifecta that stopped the run. The Mountaineers weathered the storm coming back to tie the contest with a 10-3 run over the next 1:40. Jones led the charge with eight of the team’s points and a 4-for-6 start in the period.

After trading a pair of baskets, the Mountaineers took their first lead of the game, 14-13, when Carter found  Marshall for a layup down low. The momentum shifted to Appalachian’s favor until the regular season champions responded by scoring 14 of the next 18 points to go into the second quarter with a 27-18 advantage.  Both teams shot the ball well in the opening frame over 50 percent, but A-State had five offensive boards and seven second-chance points to Appalachian’s one offensive board.

Appalachian cut it to seven on two occasions early in the second period.  A layup from Carter with 8:47 left that put the score at 29-22, but A-State went on another run that pushed the lead to double digits and never went below that. The Mountaineer offense went stagnant with a 4:15 scoring drought that led to an 11-0 run and a 16-point lead for the top-seeded Red Wolves, 38-22.

A-State eventually claimed a 46-28 advantage at the break. Jones and Carter paced the offense with 10 points apiece, and Arkansas State held Appalachian to 37.5 percent shooting from the floor while shooting 51 percent.

The Red Wolves  continued the strong play in the second half en route to the victory and never leading by less than 10 points while moving on to the semifinals. App State did perform better in the final quarter, outscoring A-State, 22-16.

Four student-athletes scored in double figures for A-State, as Sun Belt Player of the Year, Aundrea Gamble, scored 26 points and 10 boards for a double-double. Khadija Brown-Haywood (14), Amanda Lawson (12) and Brittney Gill (11) rounded out the leading scorers. Gill finsihed with 10 off the glass for a double-double as well. Her stingy defense also set the tone for Arkansas State in the opening minutes of the contest.

The Mountaineers were blanketed all afternoon by A-State’s defense, as the Apps committed 21 turnovers that turned into 22 points. Appalachian had just six assists after averaging 11.6 helpers coming into the contest. Appalachian held a 19-12 advantage in points from the reserves.

Despite a 10-20 season, the Mountaineers have a reason to be optimistic about 2016-17. Thirteen of 15 student-athletes are expected to return next season, including the top three leading scorers (Jones,Story and Craven). With a highly-talented recruiting class coming in, the Apps are poised to make a run at the Sun Belt Championship.

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