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CJ Huntley
CJ Huntley had 13 points for Appalachian State.
photo courtesy of Appalachian State Athletics

Appalachian State Men’s Basketball Suffers First Sun Belt Loss

In a close battle in Troy, Ala., the App State Mountaineers suffered their first setback in Sun Belt play on Saturday, falling to the Troy Trojans 66-62. Despite a hearty comeback effort that saw the Mountaineers trim a 10-point deficit with 1:34 to play to just two points with 16 seconds left, the Trojans were able to defend home court and pick up a win.

The Mountaineers (11-4, 2-1 SBC) had trouble taking care of the basketball on Saturday as they turned the ball over 14 times, the most against a Division I opponent this season, leading to 20 Trojan points. Troy (9-6, 3-0 SBC) saw three players tally double-figure nights against the Mountaineers.

App State saw two players tally double-digit scoring nights against the Trojans, extending their streak of consecutive games with multiple double-digit scorers to 21. On his 22nd birthday, CJ Huntley led the Black & Gold offensively with 13 points on 5-6 shooting.

Saturday’s contest was truly a game of runs as both teams went on extended runs in the contest to build momentum for either side. The first four minutes of the game epitomized that as the Mountaineers started the game on a 10-5 run to take a five-point lead into the first media timeout. Justin Abson came out aggressive on both ends, tallying four quick points on the offensive end and two blocked shots on the other side.

After an almost three-minute scoring drought from both teams, the Mountaineers continued to build their lead, scoring eight of the next 10 points to take an 11-point lead with 9:34 to play in the first frame. The bench unit provided a spark for the Black & Gold as Huntley, Marsh and Mantis each scored buckets during the Mountaineers’ 15-2 run to take their largest lead of the game.

Punching right back at App State, the Trojans would score each of the next 12 points to take the lead back at 19-18 with 4:47 to play, fueled by nine straight points from Tayton Conerway.

The Mountaineers would regain their composure as play progressed, taking the lead right back after CJ Huntley drained a layup. Powered by the bench unit, App State would score the next six points to take a three-point lead as the first-half horn sounded.

Neither team shot well in the first frame at Trojan Arena, but App State’s strong effort on the offensive glass proved to be a difference-maker in the first 20 minutes as the Mountaineers turned six offensive rebounds into nine second-chance points. Troy came into Saturday’s contest as one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country, but the Mountaineers showed that they were ready to battle in the first half.

CJ Huntley led the way for App State in the first 20 minutes, notching seven points and drilling three of four shots. Right behind Huntley was Donovan Gregory with six points.

App State started the final frame hot from the floor, making three of its first five shots. Tre’Von Spillers rattled the rim with a two-handed slam to start the second-half scoring before Huntley nailed a three from the corner to push App State’s lead to four at the 16:15 mark.

But the Trojans would fight to tie the game at 33 apiece after a pair of Conerway freebies. The two teams would jostle for position as play continued with the lead changing hands twice over the next two minutes.

Troy would take its largest lead of the game at four after Marcus Rigsby Jr. drained a three-pointer off a Christyon Eugene second-chance opportunity. The Trojans would build on their slim margin after a Xavion Brown free throw cut the lead back to two as Victor Valdez hit one of his three three-pointers of the game to vault Troy to a five-point lead.

After a slick pass from Justin Abson that led to a Spillers dunk, the Trojans would take control of the contest and go on a 10-2 run to jump in front by 11 points at the final media break. Troy would make three of their next four shots after Spillers’ jam to spark the home crowd.

Not going down without a fight, the Mountaineers would trim the lead to just six after Tate drilled a pair of freebies with 1:57 to play. Continuing to crawl back, App State would drill three straight buckets, including a pair of clutch threes by Christopher Mantis to make it a two-point game with 16 seconds to play.

After Mantis’ three cut the Trojan lead to two, Troy would get out quickly on the other end and hit a fast break layup to all but seal the home victory on Saturday. The Trojans capitalized on fast break opportunities on Saturday, outscoring the Mountaineers by 11 points in transition.

Despite a fiery comeback effort, Valdez would step to the line and nail two free throws to ice the win in front of their home faithful. The Mountaineers struggled to get anything going on the offensive end, resulting in their first setback in Sun Belt play this season.

Two Mountaineers reached double-digits on Saturday, marking the 21st straight contest that at least two Mountaineers have reached double-figures. CJ Huntley shined on his 22nd birthday, notching a team-high 13 points on five of six shooting while nailing two threes. Tre’Von Spillers notched his seventh consecutive double-digit scoring night against Troy, tallying 11 points and falling two rebounds short of a double-double. Myles Tate played another solid game on Saturday as he netted nine points and dished out a team-high four assists.

The Mountaineers will continue their season-high four-game road trip on Thursday in Conway, S.C., where they will take on the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. and can be streamed on ESPN+. Radio coverage will begin 30 minutes before tip.