So, here we go.
The Mocs need just one win and then a Western Carolina upset of Samford later on in the day to get the fourth and final bye. Appalachian State needs to only beat the Mocs to earn that fourth and final bye.
On top of that, Appalachian State was ahead by 19 points with six and a half minutes left against Chattanooga in McKenzie Arena, only to watch the Mocs storm back and win in overtime in stunning fashion.
Appalachian State is also trying to win on senior day. Nathan Healy and Jamaal Trice are the two seniors on this roster, and the Mountaineers and their fans would love to send them off winners. Healy has been a special player this season for Appalachian State, so this has plenty of meaning to him.
Importance. Revenge. Emotion. This game has a little bit of everything. Want to talk about getting ready for the pressure of the tournament next weekend in Asheville? There's no better game than this one for both teams to start preparing for that.
The good news for Appalachian State is that Dontay Hampton won't rip their hearts out again. He made a layup at the buzzer last year to beat the Mountaineers. This year, he scored 22 including making the tying three in the final seconds. With his injury, the Mountaineers won't have to deal with seeing him on the floor. Except for in their nightmares. They definitely wake up in cold sweats thinking about Hampton.
But that's not what this game comes down to. This game will be played between two teams and their current players. So what happens in this one?
The Mountaineers are lead by senior Nathan Healy. Healy has a shot at the Player of the Year in the SoCon. He is averaging 14.4 points per game and 7.6 rebounds per game. He also averages 1.4 assists, 1.4 blocks, and 2.9 steals per conteest. He is shooting 48.9% fromt he floor and 39.8% from three point range. He's made more three pointers than anyone else on the team, while shooting nearly 49% from the floor and leading the team in rebounding. The 6-7 forward scored 22 and had ten rebounds in Chattanooga. He's only scored eight points in each of the last two games. He is 6 of 20 from the floor 2 of 7 from three point range in those two games. In the last five games, he shots 22.2% from three point range (4 of 18). Is he tired? Or is he just saving up for this game? We'll find out.
Tab Hamilton is averaging just 9.5 points per game, and 37.1% from three point range. He has made 46 threes on the year, which is second on the team, just one behind Healy. Clearly that is Hamilton's strength. He scored 21 against Chattanooga the last tim they played. He then scored 16 against Samford and ten against Georgia Southern. Since then, he has played in ten games, and has scored in double figures just twice. He is averaging just 6.7 points per game. Since scoring 16 against Georgia Southern on February 7, he has averaged just five points per game. So Hamilton has been in a real slump. Will he break out of it against the Mocs?
Jay Canty is 6-6, and he is second on the team in points and rebounds. He is averaging 13.9 points per game and 6.2 rebounds. He is also second on the team in assists with 2.9. He's had several very good games this year, but has scored just 17 total points in the last two games. But he had been hot prior to that, averaging 16 points per game in the previous three. He scored 19 against the Mocs the first time.
Tevin Baskin has just been averaging 20 minutes per game, but in these last two games against The Citadel and Samford, Baskin has averaged 28.5 minutes. He is averaging 11.5 points in those two games. He is averaging 10.1 points per game on the season to go along with 4.3 rebounds per game. He is shooting 47.4% from the floor. He scored eleven and had seven rebounds against the Mocs in the first meeting.
Jamaal Trice, the lone senior other than Healy, scored 18 against Samford to lead the team. He scored 11 against The Citadel. On the year, he is averaging just 6.7 points per game, but he is coming on strong right now. He is shooting 39.7% from three point range. In the first game against the Mocs, he scored just three points. He should be ready for Senior Day.
Appalachian State is 6th in the conference in OR% and 7th in DR%. The Mocs are near the top in both categories. They should be able to come up with an advantage on the glass. Combine that with the how sometimes Mike Neal (who is not a true point guard) struggles to take care of the ball, and the Mocs can take care of some things. Can the Mocs get the full court pressure that worked so well at the end of regulation against the Mountaineers the first time going again? The Mountaineers have struggled with pressure this year, but the Mocs have backed off the pressure in recent games. Will the Mocs put that on the Mountaineers here?
LEAD PIPE LOCK PREDICTIONS THAT ARE SURE TO GO WRONG
--Z Mason will come ready to dominate yet again and put up big numbers.
--Casey Jones will continue to show improvement.
--Gee McGhee and Rico White will have decent performances.
--Neal and White will compare notes on not being a true point guard.
--Trice and Healy will have big senior nights.
--Baskin will have another solid performance.
--Appalachian State 73, Mocs 67. The Mocs have not put together back-to-back good performances in road games. Will they be able to do it on Saturday afternoon? The Mountaineers are also drastically inconsistent, and I said prior to the week that they were too inconsistent to win both games. That being said, the Mountaineers are going to be fired up for revenge. Combine that with the motivation to get the bye, and the Mountaineers will find a way to come up with a win.