March 11, 2013. ASHEVILLE — Nathan Healy’s would-be game-tying three-pointer rattled off the rim at the buzzer and Appalachian State University men’s basketball dropped a heartbreaking 65-62 decision to Davidson in a Southern Conference semifinal Sunday evening at US Cellular Center.
Appalachian State (15-16) led the SoCon’s regular-season champion and controlled the action for much of the game but fell just short of pulling off what would have been one of the greatest upsets in the history of college basketball’s oldest conference tournament.
Appalachian jumped out to a 20-9 lead midway through the first half and, thanks to a 13-2 run to open the second half, led 41-28 with 15:03 left in the ballgame. A 10-0 Davidson run cut the Mountaineer advantage to three but Appalachian responded by scoring six of the next nine points to stretch the lead to 47-41 on Jay Canty’s layup with 10:37 to go.
Davidson followed with an 8-0 run and took a 49-47 lead — its first advantage since the opening minutes of the game — on a dunk by De’Mon Brooks with 6:52 remaining. From there, the teams slugged back-and-forth and the score was tied on three occasions, the final time on another Canty layup with 2:36 to go that knotted it at 57-57.
The Wildcats scored eight of the next 10 points and went up by six points on two Jake Cohen free throws with 25 seconds remaining but Tab Hamilton kept the Mountaineers’ hopes alive when he hit an off-balance three-pointer to cut the deficit to 65-62 with 14 seconds remaining.
On the ensuing in-bounds play, Davidson got the ball to Nik Cochran, who was trapped in the corner by Healy and Hamilton and nearly turned the ball over on a five-second call before being bailed out by a questionable foul call on Hamilton. However, Cochran, the nation’s leading free-throw shooter at 94.7 percent, missed the front end of the one-and-one and Canty corralled the loose ball to give the Mountaineers one final chance to send the game to overtime.
After a timeout with five seconds to go, Appalachian inbounded the ball to Mike Neal, who dished to Healy to the left of the top of the key. Healy took two dribbles and fired a contested three-pointer from 28 feet but the ball ricocheted off the back of the rim as time expired and Davidson escaped with the closest victory of its 16-game winning streak. Prior to Sunday night, the Wildcats had won their previous 14 games over SoCon opponents by an average of nearly 22 points.
In his final collegiate game, Healy scored 14 points and grabbed seven rebounds to lead the Mountaineers. Canty chipped in with 13 points, seven boards and three assists while Neal also added 13 points and five rebounds. As a team, Appalachian State shot 50 percent (24-of-48) from the field but was just 3-of-13 (23.1 percent) from three-point range.
Davidson’s staunch post players, Cohen and Brooks, scored 17 and 16 points, respectively, to lead four Wildcats in double-figures. However, despite DC owning a big advantage in both size and experience in the post, the Mountaineers out rebounded the Wildcats, 29-26.
With the victory, Davidson (25-7) advances to Monday night’s SoCon championship game, where it will meet the winner of the second semifinal between Elon and College of Charleston.
GAME NOTES: Appalachian State dropped to 42-40 all-time in the Southern Conference Tournament including a 9-12 mark in the semifinal round… the Mountaineers also dropped to 1-4 all-time when talking on Davidson in the tournament… Sunday’s meeting was the first ever between the Appalachian State and Davidson in the SoCon Tournament’s semifinal round… the Wildcats have won three-straight SoCon Tournament games over the Apps… the Wildcats extended their winning streak to 16 games… the 65-62 final was Davidson’s lowest margin of victory over a SoCon opponent this season (the previous low was a five-point win (79-74) at Western Carolina on Jan. 24) … Appalachian became just the third SoCon school to hold a halftime lead over Davidson this season… the others were Georgia Southern, which handed the Wildcats their only conference loss of the season, and Elon, which led 34-31 at the half before falling by a 69-63 final on Feb. 27.