Mountaineers face UMKC
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
Appalachian State takes to the road for its third straight game Sunday when the Mountaineers play at University of Missouri at Kansas City. Tip-off is at 2 p.m.
Appalachian State already lost to then-No. 15 Missouri 72-56 on Dec. 1. It was the first of a four-game road span for the Mountaineers, who play at South Carolina on Dec. 19.
Appalachian State (1-7) has lost seven straight by different ways. The Mountaineers have been blown out by Campbell (101-82), and have lost close games to Duquesne (73-72) and to Western Carolina (70-64).
“We just need a win,” Mountaineers head coach Jason Capel said. “We just need a win, plain and simple. I’m looking at it as, did I think we’d be 1-7? No. Do I think we’re a better team than 1-7? Absolutely. I say that every week. The fact is we’re 1-7. We’ve had some games slip away. We’ve had some colossal breakdowns at the wrong times of games.”
Offense has not been a major problem for the Mountaineers. Jay Canty leads the team in scoring with 18.6 points per game, while Nathan Healy is second with 13.8 points. Guard Tab Hamilton adds 11.8 points per game.
The Mountaineers are not the only team on the court Sunday who is struggling. No. 5 Louisville pounded UMKC 99-47. The Kangaroos also lost 91-45 to No. 3 Ohio State.
UMKC has beaten Lincoln (Mo.), Norfolk State and North Dakota. The Kangaroos are 9-2 against nonconference opponents in the past three seasons.
None of that really matters to Capel, who is more worried about how the Mountaineers play than how his opponent has done. Capel was hoping to have point guard Mike Neal back in the lineup, but was unsure if the sophomore could play.
Neal was academically ineligible to play in the Mountaineers’ first eight games. It was unknown, as of presstime, if he was cleared to play.
“The thing I like about this group, and I say it and say it again, is the resolve we have,” Capel said. “We’re not dropping our heads. We know to a man that we’ve let some opportunities slip away. There’s nothing you can do about that except come in and practice and get ready and prepare for the next game.”
The Kangaroos don’t have any player averaging more than 10 points per game. Estan Tyler scores 9.1 points per game and has made 13-of-26 3-point shots.
UMKC shoots 41.1 percent from the field, but allows 47.2 percent shooting.
“They run a lot of movement, a lot of screening action that we went over,” Capel said. “It’s not really Princeton. There’s not a lot of backdoor stuff. It’s just four guards in the corner and they put the (fifth) man out in the middle and they cut off him. He sets ball screens.”
Appalachian State won’t play at home again until Dec. 28 when the Mountaineers host Presbyterian in the first of two home games. ASU hosts Milligan on Dec. 30.