App State men’s basketball falls to Bowling Green 78-76 in OT

Graduate+transfer+guard+Michael+Almonacy+drives+against+Bowling+Green+Monday+night.+The+Brentwood%2C+New+York+native+led+the+Mountaineers+with+21+points+against+the+Falcons.+

Andy McLean

Graduate transfer guard Michael Almonacy drives against Bowling Green Monday night. The Brentwood, New York native led the Mountaineers with 21 points against the Falcons.

Silas Albright, Sports Editor

Despite a strong second half comeback effort that forced overtime, App State eventually dropped a tight matchup with Bowling Green 78-76 Monday night. 

“Certainly a learning experience for our group in a lot of ways,” Mountaineers head coach Dustin Kerns said. “Good college basketball game and we’ll learn from it and grow.” 

App State was in control for most of the first half. Graduate transfer guard Michael Almonacy hit a pullup three at the 3:22 mark to stretch the Mountaineers’ lead out to eight points, but the Falcons answered with back-to-back threes to keep it close. App State took a 36-34 lead into the break.  

The Falcons’ offense found a groove in the second half. With less than seven minutes to play, Bowling Green stretched its lead to 12 points, but the Mountaineers switched to a zone defense and held the Falcons to just two points over the final six minutes of regulation. 

“We decided to go to the zone, switch it up a little bit, keep them out of the paint, and it was certainly effective for us,” Kerns said. “I think with our length, that zone could be good for us.”

A pair of offensive rebounds from true freshman forward C.J. Huntley helped App State extend possessions and go on a 10-0 run. Junior guard Adrian Delph nailed a corner three with 3:32 left to make the score 67-65. 

With 55 seconds left and trailing 69-65, Kerns called a play to get Almonacy, who knocked down four of five threes in the second half, a look from beyond the arc. The play worked and Almonacy drained the three despite getting fouled. He made the free throw to convert the clutch four-point play and tie it up. 

“I believe in myself, the team believes in me and I’m just gonna keep shooting,” Almonacy said. “He fouled me and I was able to knock it down.”

The Mountaineers got a stop and the ball back with a chance to end it. Delph got an open look in the corner as time expired, but just missed.

With 17 seconds left in overtime, Bowling Green junior guard Caleb Fields connected on an off-balance, contested three at the end of the shot clock to put the Falcons up 77-73. 

“As long as we affect the shot and it’s not a clean look, then we’ll live with it,” Kerns said. “Credit them, they stepped up and made a shot, but yes, that was a deep, contested shot.”

Delph answered with a three of his own with six seconds left, but the Falcons managed to hold on, winning 78-76.

Almonacy led the Mountaineers with 21 points on six of eight three-pointers along with three steals and three assists. In the second half, he hit four of five from beyond the arc and scored 15 of his 21 total points on the night. 

“He’s been one of our best shooters, if not our best shooter, through our practice sessions,” Kerns said. “He was in the gym earlier today, outside of shootaround, getting shots up. That’s what good players do.”

Delph finished with 17 points on five of 10 shots from outside and grabbed five rebounds. Junior forward James Lewis Jr. scored an efficient 14 points on four of five from the floor and went six of six on free throws with eight boards, two blocks and two steals.  

Bowling Green, which went 21-10 last year and was picked to win the Mid-American Conference this year, was led by grad student guard Justin Turner. The two-time first team all-MAC selection finished with a game-high 25 points. 

App State was scheduled to play tonight at 6 p.m. against St. Andrews, but the game was canceled due to a COVID-19 case associated with the Knights. 

The Mountaineers’ next game is Dec. 6 against North Carolina Wesleyan. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. at the Holmes Center and will air on ESPN+.