CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Appalachian State University men's basketball opens postseason play on Saturday at the Southern Conference Tournament. The Mountaineers tip off at 7 p.m. at the Bojangles Coliseum against The Citadel.
Appalachian (20-11, 13-5 SoCon) enters the tournament as the North's top seed for the first time since 2003, and earned a first-round bye for the first time since 2007.
The Apps are led by Malcolm U. Pitt SoCon Player of the Year Donald Sims, who led the conference with 20.4 points per game in the regular season and ranks first nationally in both three-pointers (102) and free throw percentage (95.0).
The squad's five seniors will play a large role in the team's success over the weekend, as the five upperclassman have combined to play in 19 SoCon Tournament games in their careers.
Kellen Brand ranks second on the team in scoring with a 10.8 average while Josh Hunter ranks second on the team in both rebounding (5.5 per game) and field goal percentage (57.3).
Classmate Ryann Abraham provides a spark off the bench and leads the Mountaineers in assists (2.6) and steals (1.1) per game. Also in their final seasons, A.J. Highsmith and Tyler Webb present scoring threats in reserve.
ASU leads the league in several team statistical categories, including: scoring (75.4), rebounding (37.8), opponent rebounds (30.5), rebound margin (+7.3), field goal percentage (.482), three-point shooting (.392) and free throw percentage (.742). Among those stats, the squad ranks in the nation's top 20 in rebound margin (6th), field goal percentage (18th) and three-point percentage (20th).
The Citadel (16-15, 9-9) stole a 62-58 victory in Boone. All-conference guard Cameron Wells led The Citadel with 21 points in the January 6 win. The Bulldogs took an early lead and fought off several Mountaineer runs to come away with the win. The loss was ASU's second and final home loss in league play on the season.
The Bulldogs defeated Samford in Friday's opening round, 55-43. Wells led the team with 17 points, eight rebounds and four assists. The Citadel sank 5-of-17 three-pointers and 16-of-18 free throws but shot just 36.2 percent from the field. Samford was held to just 31.3 percent from the firled in the contest and 18.5 percent from downtown.
Harrison DuPont (13) and Austin Dahn (10) also scored in double figures for The Citadel, who won five straight games to open February before closing out the regular season with a three-game losing streak.
Saturday's game also marks a rematch between head coaches Buzz Peterson and Ed Conroy. Conroy assisted Peterson at Tulsa, Tennessee and Coastal Carolina from 2000-06.
Looking ahead into the semifinal round, Appalachian would face the winner of Saturday's late contest between College of Charleston and the winner of Friday's Chattanooga/Georgia Southern battle.
Noting Appalachian in the SoCon Tournament
• ASU was 1-1 last season with an opening round win against Georgia Southern and quarterfinal loss against Davidson.
• Appalachian is 37-36 overall at the SoCon tourney, and 19-16 in the quarterfinal round.
• Buzz Peterson's teams are 4-0 in the quarterfinal round and 8-3 overall (1997-2000).
• Peterson's 99 wins in five seasons at Appalachian rank one shy of Bobby Cremins for fifth on the program's all-time list.
• Sims' 29 points against Davidson last season were the fifth-most in a tournament game in program history.
• Appalachian has faced Furman more than any other opponent in the tournament, at 13 times.
• In tourney action, ASU is 6-1 against The Citadel. Appalachian won the last meeting, 68-59, in the 2005 tournament's first round.