Two days before it plays in the Sun Belt Championship Game as the East Division's…
In front of a good opening night crowd, the App State Mountaineers (1-0) outpaced the Oakland City Mighty Oaks (1-2) 87-49 in the Black & Gold’s 10th consecutive season-opening win. 13 Mountaineers saw game action on Tuesday, including five newcomers who saw their first game action in the High Country.
It was a solid night for Tre’Von Spillers in his App State debut, leading the team in scoring with 16 points while also grabbing seven rebounds and swatting away two shots in just 19 minutes. Jordan Marsh had another good debut for the Black & Gold, tallying seven points, five assists and five steals. With Marsh on the court, the Mountaineers played to a +32 plus/minus mark.
It was an all-around effort from Coach Kerns’ squad on Tuesday as the Mountaineers tallied an astounding 52 bench points. Both the Mountaineers’ leading scorers came off the bench in Tre’Von Spillers and Christopher Mantis, who pitched in 12 points on four three-pointers.
The Black & Gold shared the ball very effectively on Tuesday as the team would combine to dish out 18 assists on the night. Both Xavion Brown and Jordan Marsh led the team with five apiece. Brown’s five assists puts him over 100 for his career.
It was a solid start to the 2023-24 campaign for the Mountaineers as they never trailed in the first frame and led by as much as 23 points. Terence Harcum (9), Tre’Von Spillers (7) and Justin Abson (7) led the first-half scoring for App State as the team would finish the half shooting 48 percent from the field and didn’t turn the ball over a single time.
App State jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead courtesy of Justin Abson and never looked back. The defense would hold Oakland City to just six made field goals in the first frame while racking up five steals and blocking four shots.
After Oakland City cut the lead to one with 13 minutes to play in the first half, App State would take control of the contest, going on an impressive 23-3 run over the next six minutes to jump out to a 20-point first half lead. The Mountaineers would allow just 11 points over the next 13 minutes to close out the half with a 23-point lead in front of their home crowd.
Oakland City’s Hunter Johnson led the Mighty Oaks in the first half with nine points, while Gichair Berika finished with four. The Mountaineers got to the basket at will in the first 20 minutes as 28 of their 44 first-half points were scored in the paint.
The Mountaineers would push their lead to 25 just three minutes into the second half after Terence Harcum intercepted a pass at mid-court and dished to an open Donovan Gregory for the two-handed slam to send the crowd into a frenzy.
Coach Kerns’ bench unit played a huge factor in the second half as 33 points came from non-starters in the final 20 minutes. Spillers led the way with nine of his 16 points coming in the second half while Mantis poured in six more in the final frame.
Rebounding was a major component of Kerns’ second-half adjustments as the team would grab 10 offensive rebounds in the second-half alone and tally seven second-chance points. One highlight-reel play came off two offensive rebounds by Spillers and Xavion Brown as they out-hustled the Mighty Oaks to keep the possession alive, leading to a Spillers dunk. The Mountaineers grabbed 50 rebounds on the night, outrebounding Oakland City by 11.
The Mountaineers would be content to empty their bench in the late stages of the contest as both Luke Ledford and Dawson Fennema came in to make their App State debut. Fennema pitched in a free throw while Ledford drilled a three with 30 seconds to go to give them each their first career points.
In his fifth year in the High Country, Bryant Greene saw significant game action on Tuesday as he played 10 minutes in the second half, which is the most he has played in a game since Dec. 1, 2021. Greene pitched in three of the Mountaineers’ 52 bench points, while also grabbing two rebounds and blocking a shot.
App State’s early runs would be all it needed to secure the opening-night win at the Holmes Center. Kerns has now won all seven of his home openers as a coach, with five coming at App State. The Mountaineers also extended their streak of consecutive home-openers scoring 65 or more points to 15 while also winning their 10th straight home opener.
On a night that was filled with solid performances, two newcomers shined in their App State debuts to help lead the team to a convincing win. Spillers shot an efficient 7-11 from the field to net him a team-high 16 points while also adding in seven rebounds and two blocks. Meanwhile, Marsh in his collegiate debut filled the stat sheet with seven points, five assists and five steals. Marsh’s energy was unmatched as he was in passing lanes all night, leading to multiple forced turnovers and fastbreak points for the Mountaineers.
App State now turns its attention to the MAC/SBC challenge where it will take on the Northern Illinois Huskies in the first leg on Saturday. Tip off from Dekalb, Ill., is slated for 4 p.m. (ET) and can be streamed on ESPN+.