MOBILE, Ala. – Appalachian State University women’s basketball (16-13, 10-8 SBC) grinded to a 59-50 win over South Alabama (20-9, 9-9 SBC) on Saturday afternoon in the Mitchell Center.
With the win, the Mountaineers secure the fifth seed in the 2019 Sun Belt Tournament. Appalachian will play the winner of Coastal Carolina and Arkansas State on Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. ET in the second round at Lakefront Arena in New Orleans.
Appalachian records its first winning record, first Sun Belt winning mark and the highest finish in the league under head coach Angel Elderkin. The 16 wins and counting are the most since the 2012-13 season. In addition, the Mountaineers improved their win total by nine games in the regular season and doubled their Sun Belt win total from 2017-18.
Four players scored in double figures in the victory. Bayley Plummer (Thomasville, N.C./East Davidson) was excellent down low with her seventh double-double of the season, totaling 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field with a game-high 13 rebounds. Pre Stanley (Rockledge, Fla./Rockledge) battled foul trouble and came alive in the second half with of her 10 of her 12 points in the third and fourth quarters. Ashley Polacek (Ottawa, Canada/UCF) registered 12 points with four rebounds and three assists. Lainey Gosnell (Demorest, Ga./Habersham Central) scored 11 points for her seventh straight game in double figures, while Tierra Wilson (Winston-Salem, N.C./RJ Reynolds) hit two 3-pointers and scored all eight of her points in the second half.
It was a low-scoring game affair with both teams shooting under 40 percent from the floor. The Mountaineers improved to 15-0 when holding opponents to under 70 points after limiting South Alabama to just 25 percent shooting from the field and 17.4 percent shooting from 3-point range. South Alabama went 11-of-24 from beyond the arc in its victory on Thursday, but was just 4-for-23 from deep on Saturday. Plummer did another stellar job against Antoinette Lewis, forcing Lewis to go 3-of-13 from the field with seven points.
Holding a 41-40 lead early in the fourth quarter, the Mountaineers put together a 7-0 run with back-to-back layups from Plummer and Polacek before Tierra Wilson hit one of her two 3-pointers to go up 48-40.
South Alabama pulled to within four, 48-44, but the Mountaineers wouldn’t let the Jaguars any closer thanks to a 6-0 burst with a bucket from Plummer and consecutive field goals from Stanley to go up by 10, 54-44.
Appalachian held South Alabama to 1-of-11 shooting over the final 4:24 of the game to keep the Jags’ offense at bay. App State has won the last three meetings against the Jags, which is the longest win streak against South Alabama.
The Mountaineers started with a 10-5 lead in the first 4:32 of the first quarter, hitting four of their first nine shots. South Alabama responded with a 9-4 run the rest of the way to tie it up at the end of the first period, 14-14.
A 9-0 run and an impressive 6:40 scoring Jaguar drought forced by the App defense led to a 23-14 edge in the second quarter. After a 5-0 surge from the Jaguars, a Polacek trifecta and a Brooke Bigott (Katy, Texas/Seven Lakes) free throw pushed the Mountaineer advantage to seven at the break, 27-20.
App stayed in front for the majority of the third quarter and claimed a 38-30 advantage after a Wilson 3-pointer. However, USA came back to tie it up with an 8-0. The Black and Gold tallied the final three points of the third to go into the final stanza with a 41-38 lead.
The Mountaineers will go into the tournament with momentum as they have won four of their past five matchups following a three-game skid. App has won its first matchup in the Sun Belt Tournament the last two seasons.