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Donovan Gregory
Donovan Gregory led the Mountaineers with 16 points.
photo courtesy of Appalachian State Athletics

Appalachian State Men’s Basketball Drop First Game of the Season

In the first leg of the SBC/MAC challenge, the App State Mountaineers (1-1) fell to the Northern Illinois Huskies (1-1) 78-91 on Saturday at the NIU Convocation Center. Despite getting off to a fast 8-2 start before the first media timeout thanks to four quick points by Donovan Gregory, the Huskies would roll off a 20-5 run to jump out to a double-digit first-half lead to take control of the game and never look back.

Gregory led the Mountaineers in scoring with 17, marking the seventh time in the last eight games he has scored in double figures. Mantis poured in 16 points off the bench with 13 of them coming in the second half.

The Mountaineers saw four players notch 10 or more points on Saturday in Gregory, CJ Huntley, Justin Abson and Mantis, but the team couldn’t come up with the necessary stops to keep them in the game as they would drop their first game of the 2023-24 campaign.

App State jumped out to a quick 8-2 lead before the first media timeout, but Northern Illinois would use the break to figure things out and take a double-digit lead with just under nine minutes to play. The 20-5 run by the Huskies over the next six minutes was fueled by David Coit, who scored 10 of his game-high 27 points during the run.

The Huskies shot well from both the field and the three-point line in the first half as they would nail six threes and shoot 54 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes. The Husky lead would grow to as much as 15 as App State struggled to score during the middle part of the first half.

After four straight points by the Mountaineers to cut the lead to 10 with just under five minutes to play, Mantis drilled a three-pointer to bring the Mountaineers within 10 for the first time since the nine-minute mark. App State hit three first-half three-pointers on Saturday.

Despite a CJ Huntley dunk to cut the lead to eight with just over a minute to play, Northern Illinois would score four straight to close the half with a 12-point lead. App State shot well from the field in the first 20 minutes at 40 percent, but Northern Illinois’ six first-half threes would push them to the locker room with a lead.

Huntley played a strong first half of basketball in Dekalb, leading the team at the break with 10 points on an efficient 4-7 from the field. Abson was another first-half standout, scoring eight points and grabbing a first-half high five boards.

The Mountaineers would flip the script coming out of the halftime break and cut the lead to as little as three points to begin the second half. App State would use a 15-0 run to draw the game to its closest point since it was 11-12 in the first half.

Mantis was the key to App State’s strong second-half start as he would score seven of his 16 points during the run. The Mountaineers also used timely rebounding to cut the deficit, grabbing six offensive rebounds during the team’s 15-0 run to begin the half. App State scored 15 second-chance points in the second half alone.

Momentum shifted back in favor of the Huskies after App State’s brief run as they would regain control and jump back out in front by double-digits by the six-minute mark. Coit, who was a preseason All-MAC second-team selection, led the way for the Huskies in the second half, scoring 15 of his 27 points in the final frame.

Gregory would continue his aggressive play throughout the second half, scoring 10 of his team-high 17 points in the final frame.

Second-half shooting woes would plague the Mountaineers as they would shoot just 20 percent from behind the three-point line in the half. Despite a strong burst that pulled them within three points, the Huskies showed poise on Saturday and wrapped up their first win of the season.

The Mountaineers will continue their road trip in Corvallis, Ore., where they will take on the Oregon State Beavers on Tuesday. Tip off from Gill Coliseum is slated for 10 p.m. ET (7 p.m. PT) and can be streamed on the Pac-12 Network.