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Mountaineers fall to Red Wolves on Hicks’ game-winner

The+Mountaineers+gather+around+during+a+timeout+against+Toledo+Feb.+10.
Sam Fleming
The Mountaineers gather around during a timeout against Toledo Feb. 10.

A week after clinching the Sun Belt regular season title against Arkansas State, App State fell to the Red Wolves 67-65 in the semi-finals of the Sun Belt Tournament.

Arkansas State forward Freddy Hicks hit the game winner with no time remaining, sending the Mountaineers home and likely ending their hopes at a second NCAA Tournament appearance in four years.

Junior guard Terence Harcum led the team in scoring with 15 points. Sophomore forward Justin Abson finished with 10 points, seven rebounds and one block while junior guard Myles Tate was the third Mountaineer in double figures with 11 points.

The game started out slow for both squads, with the Red Wolves taking a 4-3 lead at the under-16 media timeout. After the first few minutes of the half, Arkansas State took control of the game.

Red Wolves’ guard Caleb Fields controlled the pace of the game, scoring 12 points and dishing out three assists in the first half while Hicks shot a perfect 5-5 from the field en route to 11 points. 

The Black and Gold trailed 39-29 heading into halftime. App State’s top-ranked defense struggled to keep pace with the Red Wolves, as they allowed them to shoot 58% from the field and 38% from three.

Offensively, the Mountaineers struggled to find any rhythm in the opening period as they were taken out of the comfort zone by Arkansas State. The Black and Gold’s two leading scorers, graduate student forward Donovan Gregory and junior forward Tre’Von Spillers, combined for eight first-half points. 

In the second half, App State started to chip away at the Red Wolves’ lead little by little. By the 12:24 mark, they trailed by seven and cut the deficit to five with 6:51 remaining.

The Black and Gold took their first lead since early in the first half, going up 62-61 with 3:49 on the clock. It seemed like the Mountaineers had more late-game heroics in store, but it would not be the case.

With the game tied at 65 with 50.6 seconds remaining, Arkansas State had possession, but a turnover gave the ball back to the Mountaineers. Gregory drove hard to the rim and got a shot off, but missed and it was rebounded by Spillers. The ball found its way to Tate, who took a step-back midrange jumper that missed off-the front of the rim.

The Red Wolves rebounded and called timeout with around 18 seconds left. Fields dribbled the clock down, then found Hicks on the right wing, just inside the three point line. With Gregory guarding him, Hicks waited patiently and pump-faked, allowing Gregory to go past him. Hicks double-clutched and called game as the Arkansas State bench cleared in celebration.

The Mountaineers’ fall to 27-6 and their dream season comes to a heartbreaking end. If App State is not selected for the NCAA Tournament, they will need to hope for a bid to another postseason tournament such as the NIT or the CBI.

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About the Contributors
Ethan Smith
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.
Sam Fleming
Sam Fleming, Photographer
Sam Fleming (he/him) is a freshman Computer Science Major, from Greensboro, NC. This is his first year with The Appalachian.
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