NEW ORLEANS – Appalachian State University women’s basketball gave the top-seeded Little Rock Trojans all they could handle in the Sun Belt Quarterfinals on Thursday, but fell by a final score of 69-53 in Lakefront Arena.
LR will await the winner of No. 4 seed Texas State and No. 5 seed Louisiana while App’s season has concluded.
The Mountaineers were led on offense by sophomore guard Q. Murray (Baltimore, Md./George Mason), who fired in her third 20-point performance with 20 points on 7-for-13 shooting and a 4-for-5 performance from the line. Joi Jones (Duluth, Ga./Duluth) rounded out the leading scorers with 10 points and a team-high six assists, while Madi Story (Maiden, N.C./Bandys) led the team with eight rebounds.
App gave the Trojans fits during the entire contest despite the final score. The Mountaineers would hold a 13-8 lead with 4:11 left in the opening quarter thanks to an 8-3 spurt when the game was tied at 5-all with 7:39 left. Four different Mountaineers scored during the run with Bria Carter (Spotsylvania, Va./Spotsylvania) converting on one of her four field goals to cap off the surge.
Little Rock did close the gap to one point at the end of the opening frame, giving the Black and Gold a 15-14 lead. Appalachian shot 57.1 percent from the floor and held LR To jut 35.3 percent from the field.
The Black and Gold continued to attack in the second quarter jumping out to another five-point lead, 26-21, thanks to Carter’s assist to Murray for a layup. The Trojans responded over the next 5:02 of the first half outscoring App, 12-6, en route to capturing a 33-32 lead at the break.
Coming out of the half, Carter and Jones nailed back-to-back field goals that gave App a great start and a 36-35 lead 1:14 into the third period. However, the Trojans took the lead for good with a 9-0 run over the next 4:01 to go in front, 44-36. Appalachian went scoreless during the stretch until Murray scored three-straight points to slice the gap to five, 44-39.
That was the closest App would get the rest of the way, as LR kept answered any comeback App had in store for the Sun Belt’s Regular-Season Champions. It wasn’t until the 2:33 mark of the fourth quarter that Little Rock finally pulled away. Murray canned a 3-pointer that closed a 15-point deficit to 12. But that was Appalachian’s final points of the game.
App turned the ball over just 11 times, but LR took advantage of the mistakes with a 12-2 edge in points off of turnovers. Kaitlyn Pratt led four student-athletes in double figures with 20 points on 10-for-17 shooting.
Appalachian finished with 12 wins this season, which was two more than 2015-16, while picking up their first-ever Sun Belt Tournament win. Despite losing five seniors that helped the Apps take a step in the right direction, the Mountaineers will return their leading scorer and rebounder in Story, their third leading scorer in Murray and eight players that will look to take a bigger step in the program.
– Jones ends her career 15th in program history with 1,178 points and sixth all-time with 299 assists.
– Story is next in line to become the next 1,000-point scorer, needing just 125 more points to become the 25th member.
– The junior guard is the first student-athlete since Maryah Sydnor (17.4 ppg, 8.8 rpg) to lead her team in points and rebounds.
– Ashley Bassett-Smith (Pickerington, Ohio/UT Martin) will go down in the record books with 141-career blocks, good for third all-time in program history.