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Appalachian State, Sims bring end to Thundering Herd season

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Hassan Whiteside is rumored to be headed to the NBA. Donald Sims played like he was already there.

Sims scored 30 points including 8-of-8 from the foul line as the Appalachian State Mountaineers stunned the Marshall Thundering Herd 80-72 Monday in the quarterfinals of the CollegeInsider Tournament.

“Sims was like Steve Nash. He ran the show out there. He did it all,” said Herd coach Donnie Jones.

Marshall trailed by as many as 19 points in the second half only to cut the margin to just eight points. But Sims — the Southern Conference Player of the Year —

The game was tied once at 13 and the lead changed hands seven times. Marshall’s last lead was 24-23 with 9:15 left in the first half on a layup by Damier Pitts.

Appy State then began to pull away and led 41-31 with 1:48 left in the half. Marshall scored the final six points of the half and trailed 41-37 at the break.

The Mountaineers rolled out of the starting gate in the second half and went ahead 63-44 after a tip-in by Tyler Webb with 10:37 left in the game.

Appy State started to slow its offense down in an effort to run time off the clock and shorten the game, but that allowed the Herd to make a comeback.

Tyler Wilkerson hit a 3-pointer with 4:20 left that cut the deficit to 69-61. But Appalachian State was able to push the lead out to 78-66 with 1:15 to go on a pair of foul shots by Sims.

On the season, Sims is 170-of-178 at the line for 95.5 percent.

Marshall scored the final six points of the game.

“We fought back. It wasn’t enough. We were down too much,” said Jones. “We’re learning to play in the postseason. We haven’t done that for a long time. We played a team that shot the ball extremely well. Give them credit.”

Appalachian State was 27-of-62 from the field but 9-of-19 from the 3-point line for 47.4 percent. Marshall made 27-of-57 from the field and 7-of-19 behind the arc.

Kellen Brand was the only other Mountaineer in double figures with 15 points. Isaac Butts — a 6-10 center — had a season-high 16 rebounds as ASU dominated the glass 47-28.

Marshall also had 20 turnovers to just 10 for ASU.

Despite sitting out in the first half with foul trouble, Wilkerson led the Herd with 19 points including 15 in the second half.

Damier Pitts added 10 points and Dago Pena grabbed six rebounds.

Whiteside — Marshall’s 7-foot freshman center — did have three blocked shots and scored nine points although he was not in the starting lineup for the second straight game.

Marshall ends the season 24-10. Jones said the team’s three seniors —Darryl Merthie, Tyler Wilkerson and Chris Lutz — will be missed.

“I’m proud of this team. I’m proud of the seniors. We fell a little short tonight, but I am not going to focus on tonight’s game as much as I am on how much these guys have accomplished this year. The seniors put the thunder back in the Herd this year,” said Jones.

A former member of the Southern Conference, Marshall now leads the all-time series 32-18. Appy State was the SC tournament runner-up this season. The Mountaineers (24-10) hosts Pacific (22-11) Wednesday in the CIT semifinals.

NOTES: Marshall set the school record for most points scored in a season with 2,717, breaking the old mark of 2,683 set during the 19878-88 season when the Herd last made the postseason … Marshall’s 24 wins was the seventh highest total in school history … Whiteside now has 182 blocked shots, fourth most in a single season by a Division I players … Wilkerson ends his career with 1,035 points and ranks him No. 39 on the all-time list.