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Mountaineers clinch share of regular season title with win over ODU

Junior+forward+Tre%E2%80%99Von+Spillers+takes+a+putback+shot+on+Old+Dominion%E2%80%99s+basket+at+the+Holmes+Convocation+Center+on+Feb.+28.+Spillers+totaled+16+rebounds+and+18+points+in+last+nights+game.
Hayden Wittenborn
Junior forward Tre’Von Spillers takes a putback shot on Old Dominion’s basket at the Holmes Convocation Center on Feb. 28. Spillers totaled 16 rebounds and 18 points in last night’s game.

App State men’s basketball clinched a share of a regular season conference title for the first time in 24 years with a 89-64 win over Old Dominion Thursday night. 

A victory in the regular season’s final game Friday against Arkansas State gives the Mountaineers sole possession of the top seed, as would a James Madison loss to Coastal Carolina Friday.

“I thought we played a really good game,” said head coach Dustin Kerns. “I thought that we came out with some urgency, some fire in our eyes like we were supposed to. We got the job done, proud of our guys.”

That early urgency led to a 19-2 advantage after seven minutes for the Black and Gold. Junior forward Tre’Von Spillers credited that performance to the game plan the team made following their previous matchup with the Monarchs six days prior.

“All week we were just practicing being in our gaps,” Spillers said. “Because we know that their players, they like to play a lot of one-on-one basketball. So, as long as we corral the ball and just play team defense, the result was 89-64.”

The Mountaineers carried a 51-26 advantage into the locker room after their highest-scoring first half of their conference season, and second-highest overall behind a 59-point period against Central Penn. Spillers led the team with a first half double-double at 11 points and 12 rebounds.

App State slowed down offensively early in the second half, allowing ODU to close the gap to 15 points with nine minutes remaining. The Black and Gold responded quickly with a 15-2 run, putting the game out of reach.

Junior forward Christopher Mantis takes a jumpshot three in the second half of App State’s home game against ODU on Wednesday,. Feb. 289. Mantis recorded 12 points and two rebounds during App State’s win. (Ashton Woodruff)

Spillers continued his dominant play in the second half, finishing the night with 18 points and 16 rebounds. His rebound total was his season-high, and one short of tying the Sun Belt high for the 2023-24 season. 

“I don’t really care about points, I just know rebounds is what helps me,” Spillers said. “My defensive rebound is going to help me get my offensive points.”

It was the tale of two halves for App State in terms of shot selection. The team attempted 13 three-pointers in the first half and four in the second. 

“It wasn’t necessarily ‘OK, let’s shoot less threes,’” Kerns said regarding the change in approach after halftime. “It was ‘let’s just not force shots, let’s not settle, let’s make them guard.’ We’re up, and let’s wear them down on the offensive end as well, and just get the best shot.”

The win was the 25th of the season for App State and 15th in conference play, putting the 2023-24 Mountaineers in a tie for the program record in both categories.

“It’s a special group,” Kerns said. “When you talk about Sun Belt basketball, when you talk about App State basketball being on top, that’s a big deal.”

The Mountaineers close out the regular season with Senior Night on Friday against the Arkansas State Red Wolves. Tip-off inside Holmes Convocation Center is set for 6:30 p.m. with streaming available on ESPN+.

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About the Contributors
Spence Smithback, Reporter
Spence Smithback (he/him) is a senior journalism major, geography minor, from Jamestown, NC. This is his second year writing for The Appalachian.
Hayden Wittenborn, Photographer
Hayden Wittenborn (she/her) is a junior Advertising major, Business minor, from Cary, N.C. This is her first year with 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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