Non-conference Alexander Central: 3 Mooresville: 0 Bandys: 11 Forestview: 1 Draughn: 2 Ashe County: 0…
On a magical day in front of a sold-out crowd, the App State Mountaineers defeated the Auburn Tigers 69-64 in the program’s first game on national television in the Holmes Convocation Center era. The Mountaineers led for 27 minutes of the game and used four double-digit performances to propel the team to a signature win.
The Mountaineers (6-2) have now won five straight with the win over Auburn (5-2) and have held a double-digit lead in each game during their streak.
With Sunday’s win over SEC opponent Auburn, the Mountaineers claimed just their third win over an SEC school in program history and the first win over an SEC opponent since they defeated Arkansas in 2007. The win also marks App State’s first win over a high-major opponent on its home floor since 1993 when the Mountaineers took down Nebraska at Varsity Gym.
App Nation was alive and well on Sunday as 7,037 fans attended the game, marking the 11th time in program history that App State has played in front of a crowd larger than 7,000 at home. Sunday was just the third time in the Holmes Center era that at least 7,000 people watched the Mountaineers play.
“I thought we deserved to win the game,” Kerns said. “I thought we outplayed them and made the big plays when we needed to make them. I’m thankful for all the people who came out to be a part of this moment. It was a big moment on national TV that will be celebrated by a lot of people.”
The energy in the building was raucous from the time the doors opened until the final buzzer, and the Mountaineers fed off that energy from the opening tip. App State drilled eight 3-pointers on the day, including seven in the second half, while holding the Tigers under 40 percent shooting from the field. App State’s 3-point defense deserves special recognition as the Tigers made only three of 27 attempts on Sunday.
The highly anticipated contest at the Holmes Center saw a back-and-forth start in which each team traded buckets before the first media timeout. Terence Harcum scored the first Mountaineer points off a second chance opportunity to cut the ice for the Black & Gold.
Auburn used the media timeout to settle into the contest and jumped out in front by nine after going on a quick 13-4 spurt. Big baskets by Tre Donaldson and Chad Baker-Mazara paired with a short shooting drought by the Mountaineers pushed Auburn to its biggest lead of the game and forced an App State timeout.
Head coach Dustin Kerns’ timeout at the 12:44 mark was enough to calm things down for the Black & Gold as they punched right back at Auburn’s run and took the lead by the 8:53 mark. The Mountaineers drained seven of their next eight shots to bring the crowd right back to their feet.
With App State ahead by one at the under-eight media break, both teams would suffer through a shooting slump over the next two minutes as the two teams would combine to miss the next eight shots. Harcum sank two free throws to break the cold spell and give App State its largest lead to that point at 26-23 with five minutes to play in the first half.
Despite the two big first-half runs by both teams, the first frame of play on Sunday was a tightly contested affair as neither team could pull away from the other to close out the half. The Mountaineers were able to maintain a slim margin to close the half and entered the locker room with a two-point lead over the visiting Tigers. The Mountaineers have led at the half in four previous games this season, winning each of them.
Six Mountaineers found the scoreboard in the first 20 minutes on Sunday with CJ Huntley and Myles Tate leading the way with seven apiece. Both Huntley and Tate provided a necessary spark for the Mountaineers off the bench, continuing the trend of balance for App State.
Johni Broome, Auburn’s leading scorer coming into play on Sunday, led the Tigers with 10 points at the half, while shooting 5-10 from the field. The rotation of Huntley, Justin Abson and Tre’Von Spillers on Broome helped keep him from taking over on offense while the rest of the Mountaineer defense held the Tigers to just 33 percent from the field in the first frame.
After fans watched a special halftime act with K9s in Flight, the large home crowd settled back in and geared up for a close finish at the Holmes Center. The Mountaineers gave the crowd something to cheer for immediately as Huntley knocked down a three off a nice dish from Donovan Gregory to give App State its largest lead to that point at five.
Back-and-forth the game went as Auburn continued to punch back with the Mountaineers countering every blow. Gregory turned up his play to start the second half as he was a part of all seven Mountaineer points to begin the half.
Taking a three-point lead into the first media timeout of the second frame, App State rattled off eight of the next 11 points in the game to jump out to its largest lead of the game at eight points. A few huge treys by both Harcum and Jordan Marsh turned the Holmes Center on its head as the Mountaineers continued to play hard and keep pace with the Tigers.
With just over 10 minutes to play and a five-point lead, a Spillers steal and a Harcum three forced Auburn to call a timeout and blew the roof off the building as App State led by eight points. Harcum, who had been struggling shooting the ball coming into play, hit multiple timely shots when the Mountaineers needed them most.
The Mountaineers continued to build their lead as play progressed, holding the Tigers to just six points over the next three minutes while making a pair of huge baskets to build their lead to double-digits. Christopher Mantis, who has nailed a three in every game this season, drained his first of the contest, propelling App State to its largest lead of the game at 11.
Auburn would not be fazed by the Mountaineers’ strong play and crawled its way back into the game late, getting as close as three points as App State went cold. Led by Broome and Donaldson, the Tigers used a brief 8-2 run to cut the lead back down to three at the last media timeout.
Fueled by the sold-out crowd, the Mountaineers, determined to close out a signature win, reclaimed their composure and extended their lead back to five to kill any hopes of an Auburn comeback. Tate nailed two free throws to close out the Tigers as the fans stormed the floor to celebrate a historic win for the Mountaineers.
It was yet another balanced effort for the Mountaineers as four players notched double-figures for the day. None shined brighter than Myles Tate, who tallied a team-high 18 points and drilled a step-back 3-pointer with 33 seconds to put the dagger into Auburn’s hearts. CJ Huntley provided a jolt off the bench with 10 points, but his defense on Auburn standout Johni Broome deserves special recognition as he stepped up when the team needed it most due to Justin Abson’s foul trouble. Finally, Terence Harcum’s clutch 3-pointers spearheaded the strong Mountaineer second half as he poured in 12 points on the game.
App State will return to the floor Tuesday against Division II opponent Central Penn to wrap up the team’s four-game home stand. Tuesday’s contest will be a part of a doubleheader with the women’s team. The women’s game will tip off at 5:30 p.m., with the men’s contest to follow approximately 30 minutes after. The game can be streamed on ESPN+.