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Struggling with foul trouble all game, the App State Mountaineers’ depth showed out in an 84-74 win over Georgia Southern on Thursday. Eight players found the basket against the Eagles while four Mountaineers scored at least 10 points.
A crowd of 3,136 Mountaineer fans — mostly dressed in black for a “Black Out” game — made their presence known at the Holmes Center as the Mountaineers (16-4, 7-1 SBC) fed off the energy and provided highlight plays all night. But where the Mountaineers fed off the energy the most came after Georgia Southern (4-16, 4-4 SBC) took its first lead of the night at 60-59. Immediately after that, the Mountaineers took the push from the crowd and sparked an 8-0 run to regain control.
Despite the foul issues, the Mountaineers held Georgia Southern to just three made threes for the game, which is a season-low for the Eagles. The Eagles had made 10 threes in each of their previous two contests, including 17 against Georgia State last Saturday. The Eagles did not make a single three in the second half.
The offensive glass played a huge factor in App State’s offense as the Mountaineers tallied 25 second-chance points, outscoring the Eagles by 15 in that category. Three Mountaineers grabbed at least four offensive rebounds, leading to several easy looks.
App State brought the crowd to its feet straight from the jump as the Mountaineers scored the first seven points of the game. Justin Abson’s putback layup off an offensive rebound punctuated the strong start.
After Georgia Southern got on the board with a dunk, Tre’Von Spillers and Terence Harcum helped push the lead to 10 at the 14:53 mark of the first frame. Harcum blew the roof off the Holmes Center early, draining a long three-pointer while being fouled to cap off App State’s first four-point play of the season.
The Eagles worked to find their footing in the hostile environment, scoring seven of the next nine points in the game to trim the deficit to six at the 13:19 mark. But App State quelled the quick spurt from Georgia Southern thanks to a three from Christopher Mantis on the left wing to extend the lead back to eight.
Jordan Marsh got his night started with a layup to push the lead back to 10 points, but the Eagles remained calm, scoring four straight points as the deficit shrank to just six by the under-12 timeout.
Tyren Moore continued to guide the Eagles back into the game as he sunk a pair of freebies before Eren Banks drained a three, cutting the App State lead to three. Moore made his presence felt in the first half as he scored 20 of Georgia Southern’s 43 first-half points.
When the game got tight, Coach Kerns’ squad showed its might, jumping back in front by double-digits again by using a 9-0 run over the next two minutes. Harcum continued his fiery first-half play, scoring five of his 17 first-half points during the run.
With App State’s lead at 10 at the under-four break, Marsh’s energy and hustle took the Holmes Center by storm as he stole the ball from Banks and found a streaking CJ Huntley for a vicious two-handed dunk. Marsh’s defensive aggressiveness was a key factor in the Mountaineers’ first-half success as the freshman tallied two steals in the first frame.
But the Eagles showed their resolve after trailing by as much as 12 points in the first 20 minutes, using a 14-8 scoring run to close the half down five. Despite the flurry by Georgia Southern, the Mountaineers took a lead into the locker room for the 14th time this season.
Offense was the story for both sides in the first frame as both squads shot over 50 percent in the half. Harcum led the Mountaineer offense with 17 points, which already put him one behind his season-high. Along with Harcum’s strong half, eight of the nine players who saw the floor for Coach Kerns scored in the first half.
The second half started much the same as the first half for App State as the Black and Gold scored six of the first eight points to extend their five-point halftime lead to nine by the 17:32 mark. The Eagles were able to keep it close, however, as they cut the lead down to six by the first media break of the final half.
Out of the media timeout, the Eagles found their defensive footing, keeping App State scoreless for the next four minutes and taking a one-point lead into the under-12 timeout, which was their first and only lead of the game.
Regaining composure, the Black and Gold resolved their cold stretch and took the lead back immediately thanks to a second-chance three by Harcum to give him a season-high 22. Shortly after Harcum’s three, Mantis made a three of his own to push the lead to five.
By the next media break, Tre’Von Spillers capped off App State’s 8-0 run with a layup to push the lead to seven. This time, App State showed their strong defensive presence as the defense held Georgia Southern scoreless for four minutes, allowing App State to take control.
The Mountaineer lead grew to as much as 10 points at the 4:54 mark after a Xavion Brown free throw. With Marsh’s layup at the 3:56 mark, the lead stood at 10 as play neared the home stretch.
Despite a 10-point lead with four minutes to play, the defensive intensity never stopped for the Mountaineers as Brown made an incredible leaping steal which led to a slick touch pass to Abson who slammed home a ferocious two-handed jam through contact. Brown made several athletic plays in the game, but none were as electric as that.
App State’s poise never faltered the rest of the game as solid free-throw shooting would close the contest in favor of App State. With the win, the Mountaineers moved to 16-4 on the season, marking the best 20-game start since the 1988-89 season. The Mountaineers also moved to 9-0 at the Holmes Center for the season.
With four Mountaineers in double-figures and eight Mountaineers finding the scoreboard, Terence Harcum shined against the Eagles, scoring a season-high 23 points on four made threes and five free throws. The last time Harcum scored at least 20 points came last February against James Madison when he scored 20. Fresh off his Sun Belt Player of the Week honor, Spillers finished with 13 points and fell one rebound shy of a double-double. Spillers kept his efficiency high as he shot six of nine from the field. Justin Abson’s presence on the offensive glass was huge for App State as he grabbed four offensive boards and scored 11 points, marking his first double-digit scoring night since scoring 12 against James Madison on Jan. 13.
App State’s highly anticipated nationally televised bout with James Madison is next on its schedule. The first 500 students in the building will receive a replica jersey. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN2.