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Donovan Gregory
Donovan Gregory led the Mountaineers with 19 points.
photo courtesy of Appalachian State Athletics

Appalachian State Men’s Basketball Downs Murray State

On a day where offense came at a premium, the App State Mountaineers (3-2) grinded out a tough 67-57 win against the Murray State Racers (2-2). On less than 24 hours of rest, the Mountaineers finished the Fort Myers Tip-Off Event 2-0 against two teams who have each made NCAA Tournament appearances in the last five seasons.

App State’s back-to-back wins on back-to-back days marks the first time App State accomplished that feat since winning four games in four days at the Sun Belt Tournament to win their first ever SBC Championship. The two wins also mark the first time that App State has won back-to-back games on a neutral floor since the Black & Gold won the Sun Belt Tournament in 2021.

It was another balanced scoring effort for the Mountaineers on Wednesday as nine players saw the floor and all nine scored at least two points. App State extended its streak of consecutive games with at least two double-digit scorers to 11 as Donovan Gregory, Terence Harcum and Tre’Von Spillers each crossed the 10-point threshold.

App State led from the get-go on Wednesday and got out to another good start as the team rattled off eight points in the first four minutes to jump out to an 8-4 lead at the first media timeout. The Mountaineer defense held Murray State to one made shot on its first four attempts to start the game.

Poor shooting plagued both teams on Wednesday as both teams struggled to find nylon in the first 10 minutes. App State was able to maintain the lead despite missing eight of nine shots at one point. Fighting fatigue the Mountaineers would take a three-point lead into the under-12 media timeout.

Murray State would use the break to rest up and take the lead at 19-16 after rattling off a 9-3 run over three minutes of game time. The Racers would use a couple of Mountaineer turnovers to go on a 6-0 run to take the lead as App State continued its offensive struggles.

The Mountaineers would retake the lead thanks to strong minutes by Jordan Marsh off the bench as he would drain a three out of the break. Murray State would answer Marsh’s three with a three of its own thanks to Rob Perry to give them the lead back. Perry tallied seven first-half points.

The Mountaineers would answer back with a strong finish to end the first frame of play as they would go on a 10-2 run to close the half with a five-point lead. Myles Tate drained a long-ball with 55 seconds to play to close the scoring on the first half in Fort Myers.

Neither team shot well in the first half, but App State would use a strong rebounding performance to generate six first-half second-chance points compared to just one from Murray State, which would prove to be the difference to App State’s lead.

Individually, Donovan Gregory led the way for App State in the first frame, netting nine points on 3-4 shooting. Xavion Brown stuffed the stat sheet in the first half, posting two points, five rebounds and three assists.

The Mountaineers and Racers would trade buckets to start out the final frame, but Quincy Anderson drove to the lane for a layup while getting bumped to give the Racers a chance to cut the lead back to one at the first media timeout in the second half.

After Anderson’s score, the Mountaineers would build their lead back up to four thanks to Myles Tate’s second three of the contest. Tate had two strong games in Florida, scoring a season-high 14 yesterday before netting eight today.

A Jacobi Wood bucket trimmed App State’s lead back to two with 13 minutes to play, but Christopher Mantis’ first three of the game extended the Mountaineer lead back to five, forcing Racer head coach Steve Prohm to call a timeout. Mantis has now made at least one three in every game this season.

Back-and-forth the game went as the two teams traded buckets in a tightly contested ball game to wrap up play in Fort Myers. App State continued to lead as play progressed, but Murray State was able to hang around and not let the Mountaineers take control.

The Mountaineers were able to grow their lead to six, its largest lead in the game to that point, thanks to a few attacking scores by Gregory and a free throw by CJ Huntley. The Mountaineers continued to keep their distance from the Racers as they would push their lead to eight thanks to a big three by Terence Harcum with just over two minutes to play.

App State would close the contest on a 10-4 run to cap off the victory. Free throw shooting, which typically doesn’t favor the Mountaineers, proved crucial on Wednesday as App State buried six free throws in a row to crush Murray State’s hopes of a win in Fort Myers. The Mountaineers drained 12-16 freebies today, marking a new season-high 75 percent from the line.

Strong defense by App State to close out the contest put the nail in the coffin as the Mountaineers would hold the Racers to zero field goals in the final four minutes to secure the win. App State’s 2-0 performance in the Palms Division would secure the best record out of the three teams in their division.

Three Mountaineers finished the game with at least 10 points on Wednesday. Donovan Gregory led the way with 16 points on an efficient 6-7 from the field. Meanwhile, Terence Harcum finished with 13 points, marking the third straight game he has scored in double-figures. Rounding out the double-digit scorers on Wednesday was Tre’Von Spillers who made his second consecutive start on Wednesday. Spillers’ 10 points and seven rebounds marked the third time this season he has posted at least 10 points and at least seven rebounds this season.

The Mountaineers will return home for the first time since Nov. 7, to take on the Austin Peay Governors for the first time ever on Sunday. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m. and can be streamed on ESPN+.