Non-conference Alexander Central: 3 Mooresville: 0 Bandys: 11 Forestview: 1 Draughn: 2 Ashe County: 0…
For the first time in 37 days, the App State Mountaineers fell on Thursday to the UNC Asheville Bulldogs 63-76 in front of a capacity crowd at the Tarlton Complex on Catawba Valley Community College’s campus. The loss snaps the longest App State winning streak in Coach Kerns’ tenure.
The Mountaineers (9-3) couldn’t find their rhythm on the offensive side of the ball as they shot just 35 percent from the field and made just three three-pointers. On the other side, the Bulldogs (7-6) witnessed a record-breaking night from Josh Banks, who scored 33 points on 10 made threes.
Despite the loss on Thursday, App State enters Christmas break with its most wins since Houston Fancher’s squad won 10 games before Christmas in 2006-07. The nine non-conference wins are the most by the Mountaineers since that same season with one left to play in February.
From the moment the ball was tipped tonight, UNC Asheville was red-hot from beyond the arc, making 14 three-pointers on 25 attempts for a remarkable 56 percent mark from deep. Drew Pember got the night started for the Bulldogs with a made three for the game’s first points.
App State remained competitive to start the contest on Thursday as the two teams jockeyed back and forth. A quick four-point burst from Xavion Brown got App State started in the game as Brown notched his first buckets.
Terence Harcum would tie the game at nine apiece heading into the first media break, drilling a three-pointer with a hand in his face. Harcum, who notched his best shooting night of the season last Saturday, got off to a good start on Thursday.
The Bulldogs would continue to shoot it well as all five of their first five baskets were three-pointers. Banks would drain his third three of the game to give UNC Asheville a three-point lead at the 13:30 mark in the first frame.
Banks would continue to light up the Tarlton Complex on Thursday as he would score another three to extend the Bulldog lead to six. A pair of CJ Huntley freebies would trim the lead back to four at the under-12 break.
UNC Asheville would build its lead to 10 by the next break thanks to a pair of Nick McMullen buckets. Donovan Gregory would answer McMullen’s baskets with a bucket of his own to trim the Bulldog lead back down to eight.
With the lead at eight after the under-eight media break, Banks and the Bulldogs would quiet the large crowd at the Tarlton Complex down to a whisper as Banks would go on a personal 17-0 run to give UNC Asheville a 20-point lead at the 5:47 mark. Banks, who had never scored more than 22 points in a game in his career, eclipsed that mark with 27 points with five minutes to play in the first half.
The Bulldogs would maintain their lead as play progressed in the first half, but App State worked to trim the deficit as Tre’Von Spillers would bury two straight baskets after the last media break.
But Banks’ ninth three-pointer and 30th points of the first half would give UNC Asheville a 21-point lead as the first-half horn sounded, giving App State its largest halftime deficit of the season. The Mountaineers had never trailed in a game this season by more than 18 points at any point this season.
It was a rough first half in Hickory for the Mountaineers as they would shoot just 32 percent from the field while scoring a season-low 23 first-half points. Gregory paced the Mountaineer offense in the first frame with six points.
UNC Asheville would continue to build its lead out of the break as Fletcher Abee made a three to extend the lead to 25. But App State would fight hard to trim the deficit as Spillers and Huntley each got on the scoreboard to start the half.
After a long scoring drought by both teams, Spillers would score another basket to trim the Bulldog lead back down to 20. Spillers notched his fourth double-double of the year on Thursday, scoring 17 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.
The Mountaineers would trim the Bulldog lead to just 16 points at the 5:05 mark after a made layup by Myles Tate. App State continued to crawl its way back into the contest as Spillers would drill a pair of free throws to cut the lead to 14 with just under five minutes to play.
Coach Kerns elected to use full-court pressure to speed up the Bulldog offense and it resulted in a pair of quick buckets by Spillers and a three-pointer by Harcum with 2:54 to play. App State showed resolve on Thursday despite a big deficit at the half to cut the lead back down to 12 and make it a close game.
But the Bulldogs continued to hit their shots and wouldn’t let their lead fall below 12 points for the rest of the contest as the Mountaineers suffered their first loss since Nov. 14 against Oregon State. It took a pair of record-breaking nights by Banks and Pember to end the Mountaineers winning streak at eight games.
It was another balanced effort by Kerns’ squad on Thursday as all nine players who saw the floor tallied a point. Additionally, two players tallied double-figure scoring nights, marking the 18th straight contest that at least two Mountaineers have scored at least 10 points. Spillers notched his fourth double-double and seventh double-digit scoring night of the season on Thursday as he notched 17 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks. Gregory led all Mountaineers on the offensive end with 18 points on an efficient 7-11 shooting. He also stuffed the stat sheet as he recorded six boards, three assists and four steals.
App State will have nine days to recover before taking the floor at the Holmes Convocation Center on Dec. 30 against the ULM Warhawks to open Sun Belt Conference play. It will be the team’s first home game since Dec. 5. Tipoff is slated for 1 p.m. and can be streamed on ESPN+.