Mike Neal (Greensboro, N.C./Oak Ridge Military Academy) scored a career-high 23 points and Isaac Butts (Milledgeville, Ga./Georgia Military College Prep) pulled down a season-best 16 rebounds to lead Appalachian State University men’s basketball to a convincing 79-70 victory over
Southern Conference North Division rival Chattanooga on Wednesday evening at the Holmes Center.
Appalachian (11-15, 7-9 SoCon) led by as many as 17 points in the first half and stretched the advantage to 22 early in the second period. In all, the Mountaineers led for nearly 38 minutes en route to their sixth-straight home victory over UTC (10-18, 4-11 SoCon) and the 11th-consecutive triumph by the home team in the series.
Neal made just 6-of-15 shots from the field but sank 4-of-9 three-pointers and 7-of-10 free throws to top his previous career high of 18, set just six days ago in a 79-69 win at Furman. The freshman point guard has been the Mountaineers’ leading scorer in each of the past three games. He added four rebounds, three assists and a steal while playing 38 minutes for the Apps.
Limited by foul trouble to just 23 minutes, Butts pulled down 11 of his 16 boards in the first half. The 6-10, 290-pound senior also scored six points, dished out three assists and blocked three shots in one of his most complete performances of the season.
Stifling defense also played a large part in the victory, as ASU limited the Mocs to 33-percent shooting (23-of-69), including a paltry 26.5 percent (9-of-34) in the first half. UTC made just 6-of-25 three-point attempts (24 percent) and the Mountaineers blocked seven shots.
On the other end, ASU shot 45.8 percent on the night and converted 8-of-21 three-pointers to accompany 17 foul shots in 27 attempts. Jamaal Trice (Los Angeles, Calif./Midland College) drained all three of his field goal attempts for eight points in 15 minutes. The junior added an assist and one of the team’s five steals.
Nathan Healy (New Bern, N.C./Blair Academy) scored in double figures for the sixth time this season with 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting. He added six rebounds and a block in 26 minutes. Mitch Woods (Naples, Fla./Community School of Naples) matched a career high in scoring with eight points on 3-of-3 shooting. The sophomore led the Mountaineers with four of the team’s 13 assists and added five rebounds and a block.
Dontay Hampton led Chattanooga with 17 points, six rebounds and three assists off the bench. UTC’s three starting guards struggled the find the basket with a combined 4-of-21 shooting performance, including just 2-of-15 three-point shots. The lack of production opened up the opportunity for the visiting team’s bench to amass 45 points to ASU’s 23.
The Mocs were proficient in drawing fouls and getting to the free-throw line to attempt the comeback late in the game and knocked in 18-of-23 attempts from the stripe. UTC grabbed 22 of its 46 rebounds off of the offensive glass and converted 19 second-chance points. ASU hauled in 15 offensive boards — 42 overall — and racked up 13 second-chance points.
Appalachian closes out its home schedule on Saturday when it hosts a non-conference duel versus Winthrop in the annual Sears BracketBusters event. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m. at the Holmes Center.
NOTES: ASU’s 40 first-half points were the most since notching the same total in the opening period against Davidson on Jan. 14 ... Andre Williamson was sidelined for the first time this season with a back strain, and is questionable for Saturday’s contest ... ASU’s 13-11 assist-to-turnover ratio marked the third-straight game with a positive mark ... the last freshman to score 20 points in a game was Tab Hamilton, at Chattanooga on Jan. 7.
ASU 79, UTC 70
Score by Periods 1st 2nd Total
Chattanooga...... 25 45 70
Appalachian State.40 39 79
UTC: ZLOVARIC 12 (9 REBOUNDS), BURROUGHS 3 (7 REBOUNDS), WATTAD 7, BELL 3, HAMPTON 17, BAKER 3, BARIEKA 2, WHITE 16, BRYANT 7. FG: 23-69,. 3FG: 6-25, FT: 18-23. 46 REBOUNDS, 9 TURNOVERS, 9 ASSISTS.
ASU: HEALY 11 (6 REBOUNDS), HAUSLEY 5, HAMILTON 9, NEAL 23, WOODS 8 (5 REBOUNDS, 4 ASSISTS), CARTER 6, BUTTS 6 (16 REBOUNDS), FG: 27-59, 3FG: 8-21, FT: 17-27. 42 REBOUNDS, 11 TURNOVERS, 13 ASSISTS.
Photo Courtesy: Issac Butts, by Bill Sheffield, ASU Athletics