By David Coulson
There was finally a fantastic finish for the Appalachian State men’s basketball team Saturday afternoon as the Mountaineers outlasted Troy 78-74 for a Sun Belt Conference victory before 2,069 fans at the Holmes Convocation Center.
Ronshad Shabazz (15 points, six rebounds, three assists) converted a three-point play with a driving lay-up and a free throw with 74 seconds remaining and added a pair of free throws with 19 seconds left to help the Mountaineers (7-20 overall, 5-11 in the SBC) close out the win.
Coming off its sixth loss in seven games decided by four points, or less, on Thursday night in the 75-71 setback at home against South Alabama, Appalachian used clutch shooting in the second half and several key defensive stops to finally come out on the right side of a tight contest.
“We were thinking we weren’t going to let it happen again,” said freshman guard Emarius Logan, who drilled 5-of-7 three-point shots and finished with 17 points on a day where the Mountaineers nailed 12-of-22 attempts from beyond the arc.
That long-range marksmanship helped offset the scoring of Troy’s Wesley Person, who scorched the ASU defense for 30 points, the last of his field goals pulling the Trojans within 71-69 with 3:25 to play.
But Person misfired on his last three trey attempts in the final 2:43 and the Mountaineers generated enough offense to pull away.
Troy (9-18, 4-12) could have traded places with App State for ninth place in the Sun Belt standings with a victory, but the Trojans chased the Mountaineers for nearly the entire game after ASU raced to a 9-2 start in the first two-and-a-half minutes and led 40-38 at the intermission.
The Trojans managed just three brief ties in the entire game and one lead, when Jordon Varnado (18 points) put back an offensive rebound for a 50-49 Troy advantage with 14:45 on the second-half clock.
That lead lasted only 31 seconds before ASU freshman swingman Mike O’Boyle called loudly for the ball as he broke open on the wing and launched a three-pointer that popped through the net.
Appalachian never trailed again, but there were some anxious moments as Troy kept it close the rest of the way.
“I told myself, I’m not letting this happen again,” said senior guard Frank Eaves, who scored a team-high 19 points, 13 in the first half. “We didn’t give up on us.”
Following Shabazz’s late-game offensive surge, Troy missed a pair of three-point shots before Jeremy Holloman feathered in an offensive rebound with 3.4 seconds left to cut the App State lead to 76-74.
But Eaves was fouled twice in the final moments between a Trojan turnover and sank 2-of-4 free throws to put the final nail into the much-needed Mountaineer win.
“We were much more confident in the last four minutes,” said Appalachian coach Jim Fox. “We played with confidence and played with that attack mentality.”
Appalachian moved to within two games of the eighth and final spot in the Sun Belt tournament. The Mountaineers are chasing Arkansas State, South Alabama and Georgia State, all at 7-9 and Texas State, which sits at 5-10.
The Mountaineers will be on the road next week for a game at Georgia Southern on Thursday night and Georgia State on Saturday afternoon.
TROY TOPS LADY MOUNTAINEERS IN OT
In women’s action on Saturday, Appalachian State battled back from a 22-point, first-half deficit to send its game with Troy into overtime before running out of gas in a 100-89 loss.
Kelley Beverly poured in 32 points and ArJae’ Saunders added 29 to pace the Troy attack. That offset the 22-point effort of Joi Jones and 19 points from Madi Story of Appalachian (8-16, 5-10).
A five-point burst to open overtime allowed the Lady Trojans to regain control of the game. Troy evened its record at 12-12 for the season and improved to 7-8 in the Sun Belt.
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