Omar Carter and Donald Sims turned into a great one-two punch in Friday's season-opening win at Tulsa.
The Mountaineers (1-0), led by Carter, who poured in 35 points in his ASU debut, and Sims, who added 18 points and seven assists, knocked off Tulsa 89-86. It was also Appalachian's first season-opening win on the road since 1993 (when they won at UNC-Wilmington), and it made head coach Jason Capel a winner his first time out.
For Carter, it ended a year-and-a-half of waiting his turn. The transfer from Charleston Southern was 10-18 from the floor, and 10-10 at the foul line. His three pointer with 8:57 to play gave ASU a 59-58 lead, and put the Mountaineers on top to stay.
"I just did what our team needed me to do," Carter said. "They knew about Donald Sims, so I just feed off him. They were doubling him, so I had to hit some big shots, and that's what I'm going to do."
And Sims enjoyed sharing the spotlight Friday night. Afterall, the addition of Carter give ASU that much stronger offensively. It also creates a lot of problems for the opposition.
"Man, what a performance," Sims said. "That guy is scarey. I mean that guy, I knew from day one he could score. And they double-teamed me tonight, and he just took over. He's a huge asset to have.
"But we're a veteran group. We know what we need to do to be a successful team. That's why we didn't panic down the stretch when (Tulsa) made a run at us."
ASU shot 53 percent from the floor, including a blistering 63 percent in the second half. The Moutaineers also made 47 percent of their three-point attempts, and they hit 81 percent of their free throws.
"Our guys came out with a sense of urgency and a sense of toughness," Capel said. "Since this journey began back in the pre-season up to this game, we have preached toughness and being a team. I think our guys came out from the jump ball with a tough mentality, and maintained it throughout the game. That's what good teams do."
Sims hit two free throws with 2:15 to play, giving ASU its biggest lead at 76-63. But the Golden Hurricane (0-1) cut the lead to five on Justin Hurtt's three with 41 seconds left, and Scottie Haralson, who led Tulsa with 26 points, made it a three-point game as he buried a trifecta with 2.1 seconds left. But the Mountaineers managed pull it out.
"Coach Capel makes it hard in practice," Carter said. "So no matter who the opponent is, it comes easier for us. I knew I had the touch tonight when I hit that first three. I had a lot of confidence after I hit that shot.
"Coach told us before the game to ignore the names on their jerseys. He just told us that they put their pants on just like we do. So we just came out and played hard. We beat a good team from a good conference (Conference USA)."
It was a quality win for ASU. The Mountaineers defeated a Tulsa team that won 23 games last season and received a National Invitational Tournament berth.
Petey Hausley, making his Mountaineer debut, had ten points and seven rebounds before fouling out; and Andre Williamson, who also fouled out, had ten points, four boards and two blocked shot. Those guys really picked up the pace with Ike Butts missing Friday's season opener.
"We have a drill called the war drill in practice," Capel said. "We throw it up there and someone has to come down with it. They had a size advantage on us inside, but Petey Hausley and Andre Williamson did a good job. And Nathan Healy came off the bench and played well. We did a very good job boxing out tonight as a team, and fighting inside for position."
The Mountaineers had 28 defensive boards and blocked four shots. Tulsa was 20-36 at the foul line, the Mountaineers turned it over 19 times; the Golden Hurricane turned it over 15 times. The Mountaineers return home to play Montreat Tuesday night. Our coverage begins at 6:15 pm on AM 1450, WATA.
1 2 T
ASU 35 54 89
TULSA 35 51 86
ASU: CARTER 35, SIMS 18, HAUSLEY 10, WILLIAMS 10, WOODS 5, THOMAS 2, WRIGHT 7, BOOTH 2.
FG: 24-45, 3P-FG: 8-17, FT: 33-41
TULSA: IDLET 20, MAGLEY 2, CLARKSON 8, HURTT 15, ANDREWS 4, POPE 2, HARALSON 26, MADUKA 4, RICHARD 5. FG: 29-63, 3P-FG: 8-22, FT: 20-36.