NEW ORLEANS, La. – Appalachian State scored the first seven points of the game and never looked back en route to a 93-64 victory over Little Rock in the First Round of the Sun Belt Tournament on Wednesday afternoon at Lakefront Arena.
The fifth seeded Mountaineers (15-17) advance to the Sun Belt Tournament Quarterfinals and will take on fourth seed UT Arlington on Friday at 3 p.m. EST (2 p.m. CST).
The victory is the first for App State in the Sun Belt Tournament since they joined the league in the 2014-15 season. In addition, the 29-point margin of victory is the largest in the postseason for the Black and Gold since they defeated Barton 82-50 in the 1949 North State Conference Tournament.
“What a difference a year makes,” Coach Jim Fox said, “obviously, very pleased with our guys. I thought we got after it and defended well today. We kept talking to guys about being able to step in an environment like this and they did everything we asked. We really guarded well. We shared the ball, we had 18 assists. The way we can play, when we do that, we’re pretty darn good. Obviously, it’s a good time to put both things together today. I thought we put it together defensively and I thought we really put it together offensively too. I’m very proud of our guys and the way they handled themselves, all year, but especially at this point. We’re really looking forward to another opportunity on Friday.”
A total of five Mountaineers reached double figures in the win. Sophomore O’Showen Williams (Macon, Ga./Stratford Academy) poured in a career-high 22 points on 6-of-8 (75.0 percent) shooting and a perfect 3-of-3 clip on three-pointers. He also had three steals.
Freshman Justin Forrest (Decatur, Ga./Greenforest McCalep Christian Academy) had 19 points on 6-of-8 (75.0 percent) shooting and a 4-of-5 (80.0 percent) mark from beyond the arc.
Senior Griffin Kinney (Delaware, Ohio/Fork Union Military Academy) finished with 12 points and six rebounds and junior Ronshad Shabazz(Raleigh, N.C./Huntington Prep) also tallied 12 points, to go along with five assists.
Sophomore Isaac Johnson (Charlotte, N.C./Providence Day) posted his third double-double of the season with 11 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
The Mountaineers came out of the gate strong, scoring the first seven points to build a 7-0 lead less than two minutes into the game.
The Black and Gold continued to expand their lead in the first half and used a 9-0 run to open a 24-10 advantage with 11:08 left in the first half.
The Trojans (7-25) would trim the App State lead to just six points, but the Black and Gold outscored Little Rock 14-1 over the final 3:25 to take a 46-25 lead into the half.
In the second half, the Trojans would trim the Mountaineer lead to 17 points. But the Apps responded with 10 straight points to build their lead back to 74-47 and put the game away.
App State was red hot from the field, shooting 55.6 percent (30-of-54) and going 12-of-22 (54.5 percent) on three-pointers. The Mountaineers also had 18 assists on their 30 made field goals.