Forrest leads Mountaineers to Sun Belt semis in OT win over Texas State

App+State+senior+guard+Justin+Forrest+takes+a+free+throw+during+a+74-61+win+over+Georgia+State+Jan.+23+in+Boone.+In+Saturday%27s+OT+win+over+Texas+State+in+the+Sun+Belt+quarterfinals%2C+Forrest+led+App+State+with+28+points+on+14-17+from+the+free+throw+line.+

Andy McLean

App State senior guard Justin Forrest takes a free throw during a 74-61 win over Georgia State Jan. 23 in Boone. In Saturday’s OT win over Texas State in the Sun Belt quarterfinals, Forrest led App State with 28 points on 14-17 from the free throw line.

Connor Davidson, Associate Multimedia Editor

App State men’s basketball took on regular season Sun Belt champion and No. 1 seed Texas State in the quarterfinals of the Sun Belt conference tournament Saturday night. After trailing for most of the game, the Mountaineers came back and held on for a 76-73 overtime win in Pensacola, Florida.

“So proud of our guys for regrouping, getting to overtime, toughing it out and finding a way to win that game,” head coach Dustin Kerns said. “But overall, just an incredible college basketball game.”

In the first half, Texas State led for all but four minutes and held a 26-20 lead heading into halftime. App State struggled to find the basket early on, shooting just 8 of 26 in the first half.

“I credit Texas State, they’re the top defensive team in the league,” Kerns said. “You’re not going to get any easy looks against those guys. Our guys missed some shots, that’s part of it.”

To start the second half, Texas State took control after quickly building an 11-point lead, but the Mountaineers were far from finished. After making a few small runs, App State took the lead 49-48 on an Adrian Delph 3-pointer with six minutes left to play. A subsequent three from senior guard Justin Forrest and another from Delph helped the Mountaineers build an 8-point lead with 1:07 left to play. App State held a 61-53 lead with 32 seconds to play before the Bobcats furiously stormed back. 

Texas State’s Caleb Asberry hit three 3-pointers in the final 26 seconds, including a buzzer-beating heave that tied the score at 65 and sent the game into overtime.

“We studied adversity in the preseason, and I just reminded them of that,” Kerns said. “We’ve got to regroup, make the next play. The game is not over, so don’t act like it’s over.”

In the overtime period, Texas State took back the lead and held it until Forrest hit another three to take a 71-70 lead. After a pair of free throws from Forrest and a three from graduate transfer guard Michael Almonacy, the Mountaineers held on to win 76-73.

“I just knew it was winning time and we had to pull away at that moment,” Forrest said. “We had an opportunity and we had to take advantage of it.”

Forrest finished with a game-high 28 points and shot 14-17 from the free throw line. Almonacy finished with 23 points after sinking five 3-pointers. Delph added 16 points despite shooting just 5 of 21 from the field.

With the win, App State improves to 15-11 overall and advances to the semifinal game against No. 2 seed Coastal Carolina at 9 p.m. Sunday.