Davidson avoids ASU's upset bid
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
ASHEVILLE – Appalachian State felt it had every chance of beating Davidson in the semifinals of the Southern Conference Men's Basketball Tournament Sunday at U.S. Cellular Center.
Few folks except the Mountaineers felt that had that chance. Davidson blasted Appalachian State twice during the regular season, including a 35-point blowout at Davidson's Belk Arena.
Appalachian State was not playing as well then as it did Sunday in Asheville. The Mountaineers, seeded fourth, pushed the No. 1 seeded Wildcats to the brink before falling 65-62.
It was a far cry from the 87-52 disaster the Mountaineers endured at Davidson’s Belk Arena on Jan. 26. Appalachian State was out of contention in that game by halftime.
That was not the case Sunday. Appalachian State (15-16) had a chance to tie the game and send it to overtime, but Nathan Healy’s 3-point attempt from about 25 feet hit off the back of the rim, allowing Davidson (25-7) to reach the tournament final.
“This is a tough one to swallow,” Mountaineers coach Jason Capel said. “I’m still very proud to be the coach of this team. I’m proud of the resilience this team showed through adversity and through a lot of things we had to overcome throughout the season.”
The play started with ASU point guard Mike Neal having an option to get the ball to Tab Hamilton in the corner of the court, or to get it to Healy, who cut where Neal could find him.
Healy, who led the Mountaineers with 14 points, got a good look at the basket, but was not all that close to the 3-point line.
“It was a simple ball screen,” Healy said. “I would have liked to have caught the ball a little closer to the 3-point line, but in that situation, it was a pretty good look. It just didn’t go down.”
“We had four seconds and we knew we needed three,” Capel added. “Obviously we didn’t want to give up anything going to the basket. We could either go to Tab, who is one of our best shooters, in the corner. The decision was really up to Mike.”
Two free throws from Jake Cohen put Davidson in front 65-59 with 25 seconds left, but Appalachian State’s Tab Hamilton drained a 3-point shot with 14 seconds left to pull the Mountaineers to within 65-62.
Appalachian State, the fourth seed in the tournament, led by 13 points with 15:03 left in the game, but Davidson was able to chip away at the Mountaineers’ lead until the Wildcats took the lead for good with 2:18 left in the game when De’Mon Brooks made a layup to put Davidson in front 59-57.
Jake Cohen, who spent most of the second half on the bench in foul trouble, added a basket to put the Wildcats in front 61-57. Cohen led the Wildcats in scoring with 17 points.
Appalachian State, which also lost to Davidson 79-56 at the Holmes Center on Jan. 19, built an early 13-5 lead, which prompted a Wildcats timeout with 13:17 left in the first half. Davidson rallied, but the Mountaineers still led 28-26 by halftime.
“They hit us hard early, but we responded,” Davidson coach Bob McKillop said. “They hit us hard again and we responded. They hit us hard again, and we responded. I think that’s a great testimony to the toughness of our team and the leadership of our upperclassmen.”
After Brooks scored the first basket of the second half, Appalachian State went on a 13-0 run capped by a Jay Canty bucket to take a 41-28 lead.
Neal and Canty each scored 13 points for Appalachian State, which shot 50 percent from the field. Davidson shot 58 percent from the field in the second half to get back into the game.
Brooks, who took over Davidson’s offense in the second half while Cohen was on the bench in foul trouble. Brooks finished with 16 points, while Tyler Kalinoski added 11.
“To have the league champs on the ropes speaks these guys, and to the fact this is a close-knit group that worked hard and believes in each other and themselves and what we’re building this year,” Capel said.
Davidson 65, Appalachian State 62
Appalachian State (15-16)
Obacha 0-0 4-4 4, Healy 6-14 2-3 14, Canty 5-10 2-2 13, Hamilton 3-5 0-0 7, Neal 5-10 3-4 13, Baskin 4-5 0-1 8, Burgess 0-0 0-0 0, Trice 1-4 0-0 3, Spagnolo 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-48 11-14 62.
Cohen 6-11 3-4 17, Brooks 7-12 2-3 16, Kuhlman 2-3 0-1 5, Czerapowicz 4-11 0-0 10, Kalinoski 4-7 0-0 11, Droney 0-3 2-2 2, Belford 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 25-51 7-11 65.
Halftime score—ASU 28, Davidson 26. 3-point goals—ASU 3-13 (Canty 1-2, Hamilton 1-3, Trice 1-3, Healy 0-5), Davidson 8-19 (Kalinoski 3-6, Cohen 2-3, Czerapowicz 2-5, Kuhlman 1-2, Brooks 0-1, Cochran 0-2). Rebounds—ASU 29 (Healy, Canty 7), Davidson 26 (Czerapowicz 6). Assists—ASU 6 (Canty 3), Davidson 17 (Cochran 5). Turnovers—ASU 14, Davidson 11. Total fouls—ASU 17, Davidson 16. Fouled out—None. Technical fouls—None. Att.—NA>