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Victory Yosef

Appalachian State Faces Wake Forest in NIT This Evening

For the second time ever, the App State Mountaineers (27-6, 16-2 SBC) will participate in the National Invitation Tournament. The Mountaineers will head approximately 89 miles down the Mountain to Winston-Salem for a first-round matchup with the one-seeded Wake Forest Demon Deacons (20-13, 11-9 ACC). Tipoff on Wednesday is slated for 8 p.m. and can be streamed on ESPN+.

Wednesday’s game will mark App State’s first appearance in the NIT since 2007 and the third postseason appearance in Kerns’ five-year tenure. App State is 2-6 all time in the postseason.

The Mountaineers had a historic regular season that saw them break the program record for wins in a season with 27 and clinch an outright conference title for the first time in 45 years. Additionally, the Mountaineers posted 16 Sun Belt wins, marking the most wins in conference play in program history, while also setting the program record for the highest winning percentage in conference play (.889).

App State posted three separate winning streaks of at least eight games in the regular season and enter play at the NIT having won eight of their last nine games. The Mountaineers were the only team in the country that had three different winning streaks of at least eight games this season.

The Matchup
Who: App State at (1) Wake Forest
Where: LJVM Coliseum // Winston-Salem, N.C.
When: Wednesday, March 20 // 8 p.m.

Tune In
Watch: ESPN+
Live Stats: appstatesports.com

Last Time Out
App State fell in the Sun Belt Tournament semifinals to Arkansas State 65-67. The Red Wolves jumped out to a big lead and a Freddy Hicks jumper as the final horn sounded spoiled the Mountaineers’ comeback efforts in the loss.

Donovan Gregory made his record-breaking 125th start against the Red Wolves, passing the previous record set by Ronshad Shabazz and Justin Forrest. He has started every game he has appeared in over the last two seasons.

Terence Harcum’s 15 points paced App State’s offensive efforts in the loss while Justin Abson and Myles Tate provided second-half sparks as they each tallied a double-digit performance.

Scouting the Mountaineers
App State enters the postseason with a 27-6 record and has won 26 of their last 30 games. The Mountaineers have the second-most wins of any team at the NIT, trailing only one-seeded Indiana State (28). Entering play on Wednesday, App State is one of only 16 teams in NCAA Division I with 27 wins.

Because of the Mountaineers’ record-breaking regular season, a total of four players earned postseason Sun Belt honors. Justin Abson, who holds the program record for blocks in a single season, took home App State’s first conference Defensive Player of the Year award since 2013 while Donovan Gregory, Tre’Von Spillers and Terence Harcum were named All-Conference. Both Gregory and Spillers were named All-Sun Belt first team, marking the first time that App State has had at least two first team All-Conference selections since 1999-00 when Tyson Patterson and Marshall Phillips were both named first team All-SoCon.

App State’s defense has been tough to crack this season as it enters the NIT with the fourth-lowest opponent field-goal percentage in the country. Opponents are shooting just 39 percent against the Mountaineers, making them one of 13 teams in the nation that keep opponents below 40 percent shooting from the field. App State has kept its opponent below 40 percent shooting 20 times this season and is 19-1 when they do so.

Additionally, the Mountaineers were the best team in the country at blocking shots this season as they enter postseason play as the nation’s leader in both blocks per game and blocked shots. The Mountaineers have already shattered the program record for blocks in a season and are one of just five teams in the country with at least 200 blocked shots.

Offensively, the Mountaineers boast one of the deepest teams in college basketball as 11 of the 13 active players on the team have recorded a double-digit point game this season. Additionally, seven different players have recorded a 20-point game this season. The Mountaineer second unit has been vital to their success this season as the Black and Gold own the 22nd-best scoring bench in the country entering Saturday’s games.

App State’s offense was the best it has ever been under Kerns as the Mountaineers enter their NIT first-round matchup with the fourth-highest scoring offense in the Sun Belt Conference. The Mountaineers score efficiently, shooting 47.5 percent as a team, which is the second-best clip in the Sun Belt and the 40th-best mark in the country entering Wednesday.

Scouting the Demon Deacons
Wake Forest enters the NIT with a 20-13 record and finished its ACC Tournament run with a loss to Pittsburgh in the quarterfinals. The Demon Deacons won 11 ACC games this season, which included wins over Virginia and Duke.

Head coach Steve Forbes’ squad has been one of the best teams on their home floor in the ACC as they enter Wednesday’s contest against App State with a 16-1 home record. Wake Forest’s 16 home wins are the most in the ACC.

The Demon Deacons are led by Hunter Sallis, who boasts the fifth-best scoring average in the ACC entering Wednesday’s first-round contest, scoring 18.1 points a game. Three others averaged in double figures in the regular season, which led Wake Forest to the third-best scoring offense in the ACC this season.

Series History
App State and Wake Forest will square off for the 22nd time on Wednesday and just the fourth time this century. App State has traveled to Winston-Salem for 19 of the previous 21 contests.

The two teams squared off in Dec. 2022 at LJVM Coliseum, which saw the Demon Deacons hit a last-second shot at the buzzer to claim a tight win. The lead changed hands 15 times in that contest. Christopher Mantis paced the Mountaineer offense against the Demon Deacons in that game with 18 points.

Kerns is 0-1 in his career against Wake Forest and 0-1 against Coach Forbes.

Next Up
With a win over one-seeded Wake Forest, the Mountaineers would face either the four-seeded Georgia Bulldogs or the Xavier Musketeers who play Tuesday night. That game will take place either Saturday, March 23rd, or Sunday, March 24th. The location and tipoff time is yet to be determined.