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Tre'Von Spillers
Tre'von Spillers led Appalachian State with 21 points in the win.
photo courtesy of Appalachian State Athletics

Appalachian State Men’s Basketball Outlasts South Alabama in Overtime

In a tight matchup between two of the top teams in the Sun Belt Conference, the App State Mountaineers outlasted the South Alabama Jaguars 91-84 in a barn burner that needed overtime to be decided. The Mountaineers showed poise in the extra five minutes, holding the Jaguars to just two points while forcing two turnovers.

With the overtime win on Thursday, the Mountaineers (11-3, 2-0 SBC) are now 2-0 to start Sun Belt Conference play for the first time since Coach Kerns’ first year as head coach and just the second time since 2012. The victory over the Jaguars (8-6, 1-1 SBC) is the third time under Kerns that App State has started its Sun Belt road schedule 1-0.

Five players notched double-figure nights for the Mountaineers on Thursday, while the team scored 91 points, which is the most points scored against a Sun Belt opponent under Kerns and the first time in just over three years that App State has scored at least 90 points against a conference foe.

Hot shooting fueled the Mountaineers to their 11th win on Thursday as the Black & Gold shot an astounding 56 percent from the floor, which is the best team field goal percentage since the team shot 60 percent against UNC Wilmington on Nov. 21. Eight Mountaineers found the scoring column on the night.

South Alabama got out to a hot start from the floor, nailing six of its first seven shots to jump out to an early seven-point lead at the first media timeout. The Jaguars hit two of their seven three-pointers within the first four minutes of the contest.

Despite the hot Jaguar start, the Mountaineers punched right back, scoring 12 points in a row to take a 19-16 lead with 12 minutes to play. Tre’Von Spillers played a big role in getting the Mountaineers on track on Thursday as he scored six straight points to spark some life into the Mountaineer bench.

The Jaguars would jump right back in front by five points at the 9:40 mark of the first frame after an Isiah Gaiter three-ball. App State would turn up its defensive intensity after Gaiter’s three-pointer, keeping the Jaguars off the scoreboard for the next three minutes to tie the game back up at 30 after a Terence Harcum layup.

Keeping up the intensity, a poor shot attempted by South Alabama would lead to a fast break dunk by CJ Huntley to give App State a two-point lead at the 4:38 mark and forcing a timeout by Jaguar coach Richie Riley. Huntley, who did not make a field goal in his last contest, played well on Thursday, tallying 14 points which is his highest-scoring night since scoring a career-best 22 against Queens on Dec. 13.

Continuing the game’s rapid pace, the two teams would combine for 23 points to end the first frame, but the Mountaineers would control the game going into halftime at 44-43. App State has taken a lead to the locker room seven previous times this season and has won every game this season when they have been ahead at the half.

In an impressive display of offense, the Mountaineers would combine to shoot 59 percent from the floor in the first half, while dominating the paint, scoring 30 first-half paint points. Spillers paced the Mountaineers’ strong offensive start, scoring 10 points, while Tate and Harcum each netted eight on a combined 7-9 from the field.

The second half got started with a bang as Donovan Gregory scored a layup through contact to push App State’s lead to four coming out of the break. App State would maintain its distance from South Alabama as play neared the first media timeout of the final half, but a Terence Harcum three-pointer would give App State a five-point lead at the 16:24 mark, which was the largest of the game for the Black & Gold to that point.

The Mountaineers would continue to run up and down the floor on Thursday, pushing their lead up to nine after burying three straight shots in the lane. App State’s brief 6-0 run was punctuated by a ferocious two-handed slam by Spillers after a Harcum steal.

But the Jaguars would slowly climb their way back into Thursday’s contest, cutting the lead to just five points after Marcus Millender buried a two-pointer with 10:11 to play in the half. Gaiter would tie the game at 68 apiece at the under-eight timeout after nailing a pair of free throws.

Punching right back at Gaiter’s free throws, Harcum drilled a jumper to give the Mountaineers the lead right back at 70-68. Harcum notched 15 points on Thursday, marking his highest-scoring night since scoring 18 against Oregon State on Nov. 14.

Down the stretch, App State would take a three-point lead after Spillers sunk a layup to give him a season- and Mountaineer-high 22 points on the evening. Spillers finished one rebound shy of his fifth double-double of the season on Thursday.

After Myles Tate drilled a freebie to give App State a two-point lead with just 19 seconds to play, the Jaguars took the ball down the floor where Gaiter fired a shot at the rim that missed. A fight for the loose ball ensued with Gaiter coming away from the pack and firing a pass to a wide-open Thomas Howell who laid the game-tying basket up and in with two seconds to play, forcing overtime.

The Mountaineers would take control of this back-and-forth affair in the extra period on Thursday, outscoring South Alabama 9-2 while forcing the Jaguars to miss six of their seven shots. The overtime frame got started with a pair of free throws from CJ Huntley, who nailed all four of his free throws on the game.

App State would use a 7-0 run to begin overtime, capped off by a huge Christopher Mantis three-pointer, to take a commanding seven-point lead with 1:57 to play. The Jaguars were unable to keep pace with the hot-shooting Mountaineers in the final frame as they would close out their 11th win of the year and 10th win in their last 11 games.

Balanced scoring paced the Mountaineer charge on Thursday as five players reached double figures for the game. Spillers’ 23 points on 11-13 shooting led the way for Coach Kerns’ squad as the junior tallied a season-high against the Jaguars. Terence Harcum played one of his best games of the season, notching 15 points on 6-7 shooting, while hitting timely shots when App State needed a bucket. Myles Tate played the role of floor general nicely for the Mountaineers as he tallied 13 points while dishing out a team-best four assists.

App State will take 167 miles up the road to take on the Troy Trojans at Trojan Arena in their next contest on Saturday. Tipoff is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. and can be streamed on ESPN+.