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The Appalachian

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The Appalachian

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Men’s basketball prepares for biggest home game in 23 years

Graduate+student+forward+Donovan+Gregory+brings+the+ball+up+the+court+against+Carlow+Dec.+7%2C+2022.+App+State+welcomes+Auburn+Sunday+for+the+first+power-five+matchup+in+Boone+since+2000.
Ashton Woodruff
Graduate student forward Donovan Gregory brings the ball up the court against Carlow Dec. 7, 2022. App State welcomes Auburn Sunday for the first power-five matchup in Boone since 2000.

On Sunday, App State men’s basketball will host their first power-five opponent in 23 years since North Carolina for the grand opening of Holmes Convocation Center. 

It marks the first sellout since 2009, when NBA star Steph Curry and Davidson played the Mountaineers in Boone.

“Just a tremendous program coming up the mountain to play,” said head coach Dustin Kerns when the game was announced.

Auburn comes into the matchup 5-1, fresh off a dominating 74-57 win over Virginia Tech Wednesday. The Tigers are led by forward Johni Broome, who averages 17.8 points per game along with 8.4 rebounds per game. Against the Hokies, Broome had 30 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks. 

The Tigers’ backcourt is comprised of guards Aden Holloway and Denver Jones. Holloway, a Charlotte native, is the team’s second leading scorer at 11 points per game. Both guards shoot over 40% from three.

Despite their ability to score, Auburn hangs their hat on the defensive end of the court. The Tigers tend to press full-court, hoping to speed their opponents up while attempting to generate turnovers. Against Virginia Tech, Auburn forced 21 turnovers leading to 30 points off turnovers. 

Head coach Bruce Pearl’s team does a great job of running shooters off the three-point line. They rank fourth in the country in opponent’s three-point percentage at 22.4%. The Tigers’ lone loss came against No. 20 Baylor, where the Bears were the only team to shoot above 35% from downtown. 

The Black and Gold come into the matchup on a four-game win streak after defeating ETSU 72-61 Wednesday. To begin the season, graduate student forward Donovan Gregory and junior forward Tre’Von Spillers lead the team in scoring at 13.1 and 12.3 points per game respectively.

App State is also a defensive minded team, limiting opponents 37% shooting from the field and 31% from three. The Mountaineers force 11.3 turnovers per game leading to 11.1 points off turnovers.

“We preach defense everyday in practice,” said freshman guard Jordan Marsh. 

If the Mountaineers wish to pull off the home upset, they will need to limit both turnovers and Broome. Sophomore forward Justin Abson will likely draw the initial matchup, but multiple defenders could be used against the Tigers’ star. Playing defense without fouling will also be key.

The game is set for 1 p.m. Sunday and will be televised on ESPN2. 

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About the Contributors
Ethan Smith, Sports Editor
Ethan Smith (he/him) is a senior journalism major, media studies minor. This is his third year writing for The Appalachian.
Ashton Woodruff, Photo Editor
Ashton Woodruff (she/her) is a junior IDS Criminal Justice/Photojournalism major, and a Social Work minor. This is her second year with The Appalachian.
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