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Donovan Gregory
Donovan Gregory led the Mountaineers with 12 points.
photo courtesy of Appalachian State Athletics

Appalachian State Men’s Basketball Defeats Louisville on the Road

App State secured a signature victory in dramatic fashion Tuesday night, winning 61-60 at Louisville.

The Mountaineers, who are off to their first 3-0 start since the 1997-98 season, scored the opening basket 29 seconds into the game and led the rest of the way, as head coach Dustin Kerns’ squad built the advantage to as many as 16 points in the first half.

Louisville’s El Ellis drove for what was potentially a game-winning layup at the buzzer, but a video review by the game officials quickly determined that Ellis released the shot after time had expired. That set off a celebration along the visiting bench in the KFC Yum! Center.

The crowd of 11,919 was the largest to ever witness App State deliver a road win in men’s basketball. It was the Mountaineers’ first victory against a Power Five opponent since a 65-63 win at Virginia Tech early in the 2014-15 season.

Louisville, also a member of the ACC, has won multiple national championships in its decorated history. The Cardinals (0-3) suffered their third straight one-point loss to open the season

Donovan Gregory led App State with 16 points, Tyree Boykin added 14 and Terence Harcum scored 10. Justin Abson blocked two more shots and hit a big one of his own with 36 seconds left to push the Mountaineers’ lead to 61-58, while Tamell Pearson grabbed a team-best nine rebounds.

Abson has 10 career blocks through his first three collegiate games, the third most in the nation and first among freshmen.

App State forced 18 turnovers, thanks in part to six steals, and finished with a 34-18 advantage in points in the paint.

The Mountaineers drew eight charges on the night, led by Pearson who drew five. Abson drew the eighth in a crucial moment with three minutes to go.

Boykin and Dibaji Walker, who both hit two 3-pointers in the first half, made long-range jumpers in the first five minutes to give the Mountaineers a 10-4 lead. A putback from Gregory, who then followed a Harcum steal with a short jumper in transition, pushed the advantage to 33-17 with 4:44 left before halftime.

From midway through the first half through the first four minutes of the second half, App State led by double figures. It maintained at least a six-point lead until Louisville pulled within 57-53 with 3:31 left. CJ Huntley had drilled a 3-pointer with 6:59 left to give the Mountaineers a 57-45 lead, but back-to-back 3s from the Cardinals made it a six-point game with 5:27 left, and Ellis added a layup about two minutes later.

Harcum’s two free throws with 3:09 left put App State back in control, but a layup and three free throws from Ellis allowed Louisville to enter the final minute trailing just 59-58 — he went 1-for-2 at the line with a chance to tie the game at the 1:04 mark.

Abson rebounded a teammate’s miss under the basket, worked toward the middle of the paint and converted a turnaround half-hook with his left hand as the shot clock was winding down on App State’s next possession. Ellis hit another layup with 24 seconds left, and Louisville had a chance to win following a missed front end of a one-and-one free throw from App State with 10 seconds left.

Ellis, who scored 19 of his 29 points after halftime, came within a tenth of a second of adding to that total. Instead, the Mountaineers left Louisville with a memorable win and a still-unblemished record.

App State will return to action this weekend when it hosts a multi-team event that features contests against Campbell (Fri. at 7 p.m.), Kennesaw State (Sat. at 7 p.m.) and Southeastern Louisiana (Sun. at 2:30 p.m.) at Holmes Convocation Center.