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Originally published: 2014-01-18 20:51:17
Last modified: 2014-01-18 20:52:02

Spagnolo has big day vs. Georgia Southern

by Steve Behr Sports Editor

Tommy Spagnolo didn't eat anything special for breakfast Saturday. He didn't down any spinach like Popeye, or an energy pill like Underdog.

"Tommy had turkey sausage, yogurt and eggs, and Tommy eats more than anybody I know in a long time," Mountaineers coach Jason Capel said.

If an extra helping of sausage and eggs can get Spagnolo to post the numbers he did Saturday in the Mountaineers' 81-68 win over Georgia Southern Saturday, Capel would make it mandatory for all of his players.

But Spagnolo's pregame meal didn't cause his big game. Instead, the former Ashe County standout, and current Appalachian State forward, used old-fashioned effort to lead the Mountaineers to a 81-68 victory at the Holmes Center Saturday.

Spagnolo, starting for the first time since Nov. 22, scored 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting, and pulled down 16 rebounds. Both are career highs for Spagnolo.

"That's what coach wants me to do, to rebound and defend," Spagnolo said. "I'm just trying to help this team win."

Spagnolo was starting in place of Tevin Baskin, who was benched because of nagging injuries and ineffectiveness, according to Capel.

Spagnolo said the Mountaineers planned to get the ball inside to him, Michael Obacha (14 points) and Mike Kobani (nine points) because Georgia Southern's strength is its guard play.

"They've got a three-headed monster in those three guards," Spagnolo said. "We definitely wanted to capitalize on their weakness down low."

Georgia Southern's top three frontcourt players -- Marvin Baynham, Angel Matias and Kyle Doyle -- combined to score 15 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Neither of them scored more than six points or grabbed more than six rebounds.

Georgia Southern's leading scorers -- Jelani Hewitt and Tre Bussey -- had mixed results. Hewitt, who led the Southern Conference in scoring with 20.8 points per game going into Saturday, had 19 against the Mountaineers.

Bussey, who was fifth in the SoCon in scoring with 18.6 points per game, settled for three points Saturday.

"Their bigs aren't really looking to score the ball nearly as much as their guards were," Spagnolo said.

Spagnolo could have added a few more points to his final total had some of his layups gone in the basket. His old-fashioned three-point play with 13:15 left in the second half gave the Mountaineers a 44-42 lead. He also had a chance at a three-point play at the start of the second half, but could not convert the foul shot.

Spagnolo said App State's guards were looking for the frontcourt players more Saturday. The Mountaineers finished with 21 assists on 27 made baskets. Four App State guards -- Tab Hamilton, Chris Burgess, Mike Neal and Ty Toney -- combined for 18 assists.

"They were looking for us more," Spagnolo said. "We've got really good shooters, so that opens it up inside for us. As long as we keep finishing when we get the ball down there, it should continue."