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On Saturday afternoon, the App State Mountaineers stormed into Atlantic Union Bank Center and left with a statement 59-55 win over the James Madison Dukes. Despite turning the ball over a season-high 23 times and not making a single 3-pointer in the second half, the Mountaineers played at their pace and closed out their third Sun Belt road win of the year.
App State (13-4, 4-1 SBC) led for 33 minutes, jumping out to a 16-point lead in the first half to silence the raucous JMU crowd of 7,761. The Mountaineers held the recently ranked Dukes (15-2, 3-2 SBC) below their season scoring average by 33 points while limiting the Dukes to a season-low 35.9 percent from the field.
After falling behind 26-10, JMU finally pulled even with 12:53 left and took a one-point lead into the final five minutes, but Tre’Von Spillers converted a tiebreaking putback with 1:47 remaining to give App State a 55-53 edge. The score remained the same until Myles Tate hit a layup with 21 seconds left, and he followed a JMU layup with two free throws that pushed the margin back to four with 11 seconds left.
The Mountaineers showed their might on the defensive side of the ball as the Black and Gold recorded eight steals while eclipsing their season average in blocks with seven. Justin Abson was stout in the middle, swatting away four shots and helping hold T.J. Bickerstaff to a season-low six points on the day.
The Mountaineers’ poise and experience playing on the road in the Sun Belt showed out in a hostile environment. With 7,761 fans in attendance, the Mountaineers got off to a 4-0 start thanks to a pair of layups by Justin Abson and Tre’Von Spillers.
Five quick points by Terence Harcum helped silence the crowd as play hit the first media timeout, as the junior drained a three-pointer to give App State a seven-point lead. CJ Huntley would follow Harcum’s trey-ball with a three of his own to increase the lead to eight at the 13:15 mark.
Keeping the foot on the pedal, App State would build a double-digit lead for the 13th time this season after a fastbreak layup from Myles Tate. Tate’s strong play off the bench sparked the Mountaineers from the moment he stepped on the floor on Saturday.
Out of the under-12 media timeout, the Mountaineer defense continued to come up with stop after stop against the high-powered JMU offense, keeping the Dukes off the scoreboard for two straight minutes, allowing Huntley and Abson to sink buckets on the offensive end to pad the lead up to a game-high 16 points.
But the Dukes would counter the Mountaineers’ strong start and bring their home crowd back into the contest, going on an 11-0 run to close the half, fueled by seven straight points from Terence Edwards Jr. Edwards ignited Atlantic Bank Union Center after his layup through contact resulted in a foul call to send him to the line for an extra point.
Helping the Dukes go on their run, the Mountaineers committed a turnover on six different possessions to end the first half, resulting in easy looks for the Dukes. The Mountaineers turned the ball over 15 times, which is the most turnovers they have in an entire game this season.
When the first-half buzzer went off, App State maintained a five-point lead, despite the sloppy close to the half. Eight players found the basket in the first half for the Mountaineers, with Tate leading the way with seven.
With the crowd fully back into the game after halftime, the Mountaineers would remain poised after Michael Green III drilled a bucket to cut the lead to three, going on a 9-2 run over the next two minutes to jump back in front by 10. Donovan Gregory ignited the spurt, scoring five points during the run, which pushed him over 1,300 career points to make him one of 21 Mountaineers to reach that milestone.
But the Dukes continued to creep their way back into the game, trimming the lead to just three after Xavier Brown nailed a corner three-pointer that blew the roof off the building, forcing a Kerns timeout. Brown would hit from the same spot less than a minute later to tie the game at 39 before Abson netted a basket to silence the crowd for a moment.
The two teams would trade punches after the under-12 media break with the game being tied up twice over the next minute, before the Dukes took their first lead of the game after Jaylen Carey sunk a free throw to put JMU up 44-43 at the 9:11 mark.
The lead would change hands five times over the next four minutes and change as both teams jostled for position in this hard-fought affair. Spillers and Tate would combine to score six of the next eight Mountaineer points to keep the game tied as play hit the last media break.
With the game tied at 53 and less than two minutes to play, App State would inbound the ball below their basket after JMU knocked a pass out of bounds. With less than ten seconds on the shot clock, Gregory drove to the lane and forced up a tough shot as the shot clock horn sounded that bounced off the rim a few times before falling off. But right there to clean up the miss was Spillers who calmly tipped the ball in to give the Mountaineers a two-point lead with 1:47 to play.
After forcing a Mark Byington timeout and an Edwards’ missed jumper, Tate and the Mountaineers would score again on the other end, with the experienced point guard driving the lane and flipping up a shot to put the nail in the coffin on Saturday. Tate has played well for App State when it matters most this season as he scored 15 points on Saturday, which was the most he has scored since Auburn on Dec. 3.
After a quick layup by Xavier Brown and a JMU foul with 11 seconds to play, Myles Tate calmly stepped to the line and sank two free throws to ice the game and secure a road win. With the win, the Mountaineers moved to 13-4 and 4-1 in the Sun Belt, marking the first time ever that App State has started 4-1 in Sun Belt play.
With eight Mountaineers finding the basket against James Madison Saturday, three notable performances stood out to guide App State to a statement road win. Myles Tate led the Mountaineers off the bench with 15 points, providing a calming presence and stepping up in big moments with a basket. Justin Abson’s 12 points marked the 23rd straight game that App State has seen two double-digit scorers, but his impact was felt more on the defensive end as the sophomore swatted away four shots while keeping Bickerstaff to just six points. Lastly, Tre’Von Spillers’ presence was felt on the glass as he tallied eight points to go along with 10 boards.
App State will return home for the first time since Dec. 30 to play the Georgia State Panthers on Wednesday at the Holmes Center. Wednesday marks the start of a season-high four-game homestand. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. and can be streamed on ESPN+.