App State women’s basketball pulled out a gutty 54-46 win over UTA in the quarterfinal round of the Sun Belt Tournament on Saturday afternoon at Hartsell Arena.
App State advances to the semifinals to face top-seeded Troy on Sunday at 12 p.m. (ET) at the Pensacola Bay Center for a trip to the finals.
Pre Stanley (Rockledge, Fla./Rockledge) scored 18 of her game-high 24 points in the second half while grabbing six boards. The senior scored the majority of her points at the line going 11-of-12.
Janay Sanders (Charlotte, N.C./Mallard Creek) scored 10 points and pulled five off the glass. Lainey Gosnell (Demorest, Ga./Habersham Central) scored eight points and tied a game-high with nine rebounds, and Brooke Bigott (Katy, Texas/Seven Lakes) also grabbed nine rebounds on top of three points.
It was a defensive battle in which both teams shot under 35 percent from the floor. The Mountaineers struggled from the field and hit only two 3-pointers after hitting at least 10 3-pointers in three consecutive games coming into Saturday. App State used its defense, second-chance opportunities and the charity stripe to come way with its first win over UTA.
After UTA went into the break with a 35-29 lead, the Mountaineers’ defense held UTA to only 21 points in the second half and outscored their foe by 14 points in the third and fourth quarters.
App State trailed 30-27 late in the third period before Stanley scored six straight points into the fourth quarter to give the Black and Gold the lead for good.
The Apps slowly built their lead to as much as nine with 2:26 left in the game thanks to three straight baskets. UTA responded by cutting the deficit to one possession with under a minute left. However, App State hit its final six free throws in the final 24 seconds of the game to seal the win and a second trip to the semifinals in the past three seasons.
Appalachian hit 11 of its 22 free throws in the final period, shooting 22-of-28 from the charity stripe. The Apps turned the ball over just four times in the second half (12 in the first half), and the 46 points are the fewest allowed this season.
The Mountaineers forced 21 turnovers for 17 points and came down with 17 offensive rebounds.