Four Mountaineers finish in double figures as App State men’s basketball rolls past NC Wesleyan

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Andy McLean

App State grad transfer guard Michael Almonacy attempts to finish at the rim against Bowling Green Nov. 30.

Cameron Burnett, Reporter

App State got back in the win column after an overtime loss last week and earned a 81-57 win over NC-Wesleyan Sunday, sparked by a great performance from freshman forward CJ Huntley. 

Huntley finished the game with a career-high 18 points, shooting 4-of-7 from behind the arc. 

“CJ is a guy that we evaluated out of high school as a perimeter player. He didn’t play perimeter in high school,” head coach Dustin Kerns said. “This has been a big adjustment for him and what we’ve asked him to do has been very difficult.”

Huntley went from primarily setting ball screens in high school to using them as a ball handler at App State. This is his second game with double-digit points and the adjustments are starting to settle in for him on the court.

The Mountaineers got off to a rocky start, not scoring until the 16:48 mark in the first half on a layup by Huntley, who scored the first six points for App State.

With 4:50 left in the first half, the Battling Bishops 2-3 zone was causing issues for App State until junior guard Adrian Delph hit a deep three to get them back into a man-to-man defense.

“It doesn’t matter which defense they are in. We just got to execute on offense. We were kind of getting out of our principles,” sophomore forward Kendall Lewis said. “As long as we execute, we were going to be able to score so once we got back, it was good.”

After the defensive switch for NC-Wesleyan, App State settled in on offense going into halftime. Leading 32-30 with just under three minutes left in the first half, the Mountaineers finished the half on a 10-2 run.

Senior guard Justin Forrest and Kendall Lewis both came off the bench in this game and stepped up in the second half. 

“I think I’ve started somebody different every game. I think that’s a good thing,” Kerns said. “Competition breeds success and I think that every day is an interview. I think that’s the kind of program I want to have, where guys are not necessarily comfortable being the seventh man and not comfortable being the starter.”

Isaiah Lewis led the Battling Bishops in scoring with 21, including 14 in the first half. At halftime, the Mountaineers made adjustments to their defense and limited his success in the second half.

“Coach Kerns told us we just gotta be solid on defense. We were gambling a little too much and getting out of our principles and once he told us to get back in our principles, we just locked back in,” Lewis said. 

Early in the second half, Kendall Lewis followed a missed three with a putback dunk to take the momentum, and the Mountaineers led by double-digits for the rest of the game.

“I just crash every time and it came off perfectly so I was able to put it back,” Lewis said.

Four Mountaineers finished in double figures after having a slow start on offense. Sophomore guard Donovan Gregory added in 14 points, including 6-8 on free throws.

“Our coach always talks about just playing to your strengths. I know I can use my quickness to get around defenders and my teammates had the confidence in me, so that helped out a lot,” Gregory said.

App State will have a short break before the team plays their next game at Charlotte Dec. 11.