Shorthanded Mountaineers beat Bluefield College
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
Appalachian State's men's basketball team, missing three players, had enough players left to pull away from Bluefield College for a 97-70 victory over the NAIA program Monday night at the Holmes Center.
The Mountaineers (4-8), after winning two straight games over non-Division I teams, plays a final nonconference game Thursday at Duquesne before starting their Southern Conference season at Elon on Jan. 6.
The Mountaineers handled Bluefield College (6-2) without the services of starting forward Tevin Baskin (neck) and Ty Toney (sprained ankle). They also did not have the services of forward Jay Canty, whose status still remains unknown, according to head coach Jason Capel.
"I wish I could, I don't know," Capel said of commenting on Canty's status. "I'll say it again. I'm proud of what Jay has done and proud of the effort he gave to all of the requirements he had. He did a fantastic job and I hope the matter is cleared up soon"
Having any of the three would be welcomed by the Mountaineers as the season goes on, but wasn't really necessary against Bluefield. The Rams, coached by former App State assistant Richard Morgan, struggled to stop Mountaineers guard Mike Neal.
The junior shooting guard scored 23 points on 8-of-9 shooting from the field. He made four of his five attempts from 3-point range and also made 3-of-4 from the foul line.
Capel said Neal did not know he was starting until just before game time, but also said Neal had two good days of practice before Monday.
"He had a good day," Capel said. "I put him on the Gold team because he ticked me off in practice the other day, so maybe that lit a fire under him a little bit. He didn't know he was starting until he saw his name on the board, so maybe that motivated him."
Fellow guard Tab Hamilton added 16 points and point guard Chris Burgess scored 14 points. Michael Obacha scored 11 points and grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds.
Appalachian State shot 63.2 percent (36-of-57) from the field, and made 10-of-20 from 3-point range. The Mountaineers also dished out 17 assists for the 36 baskets they made.
"I was pleased with the win today," Capel said. "We did some good things. Our confidence on the offensive end has obviously grown. I said it before, that our offense is going to come along. It was just confidence that our guys had to work through."
Bluefield stayed close by making 7-of-13 3-point baskets in the first half. App State took a 53-37 lead with 1:03 left in the first half, but the Rams closed out the first half with a 4-0 mini-run and trailed 53-41 at halftime.
App State led 62-50 with 14:43 left in the game, but increased its lead to 73-53 with an 11-3 run. Bluefield never got closer than 17 points the rest of the game.
Bluefield got 13 points from 6-foot-9 center Nequan Melvin, who was playing in his first game of the season. Melvin is a transfer from Francis-Marion.
Devin Page, who made three out of three 3-point baskets, added 12 points. Kearsten Marion scored 10 points.
Bluefield cooled off from the 3-point line in the second half by making just 2-of-9 from beyond the arc in the final 20 minutes of the game.
"Defensively, I didn't think we were good in the first half," Capel said. "In the second half, we ran them off the 3-point line."
Morgan, whose coaching staff includes former East Tennessee State standout Keith "Mister" Jennings, feels that the Mountaineers are close to gelling. Getting everybody back into the lineup is key, according to Morgan.
"They got to wait until they get the whole piece of the puzzle," Morgan said. "Then we can tally it up and see how it goes."
Appalachian State 97, Bluefield College 70
Bluefield College 70 (6-2)
Nesbit 1-8 0-0 2, Lubsey 3-9 0-0 6, Page 3-3 3-5 12, Grisby 3-7 0-0 8, Marion 4-9 0-0 10, Wilson 3-9 2-2 9, Stathopoulos 1-3 0-0 3, Collins 0-2 0-0 0, Dukes 2-5 3-6 7, Melvin 6-10 1-3 13. Totals 26-65 9-16 70.
Appalachian State 97 (4-8)
Obacha 3-4 5-8 11, Gilbert 4-5 0-1 8, Hamilton 6-15 2-2 16, Burgess 5-9 2-2 14, Neal 8-9 3-4 23, Kobani 4-5 0-2 8, Clarke 1-1 0-0 2, Spagnolo 2-3 3-4 7, Eaves 1-2 0-0 3, Purgason 1-1 0-0 3, Scott 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 36-57 15-23 97.
Halftime score--App State 53, Bluefield 41. 3-point goals--Bluefield 9-23 (Page 3-3, Marion 2-5, Grisby 2-6, Stathopoulos 1-3, Wilson 1-4, Collins 0-2), App State 10-20 (Neal 4-5, Burgess 2-2, Hamilton 2-8, Purgason 1-1, Eaves 1-2, Scott 0-2). Rebounds--Bluefield 30 (Dukes 9), App State 39 (Obacha 12). Assists--Bluefield 12 (Page 3), App State 17 (Burgess 4). Steals--Bluefield 6 (Grisby 2), App State 5 (Hamilton 2). Turnovers--Bluefield 9, App State 9. Total fouls--Bluefield 18, App State 17. Fouled out--None. Technical fouls--None. Att.--688.