Mountaineers finish 3-day tournament 1-2


Hiatt Ellis

Senior forward Donovan Gregory powers through a Campbell defender for an easy two in the paint Nov. 18, 2022.

Dan Davidson, James Parker, and Trey Blake

App State competed in a three-game tournament in Boone this weekend, finishing the event 1-2. 

The Mountaineers entered the weekend 3-0, coming off a road victory over Louisville Nov. 15. The win marked their first over a power conference opponent since 2014. 

“The past is in the past. We won,” sophomore guard Terence Harcum said. “Like he said, next page.”

App State first matched up with Campbell Friday night, dropping the contest 63-58 after a late surge by the Fighting Camels. 

“Give credit to Campbell. I thought they just outplayed us, they deserved to win,” head coach Dustin Kerns said. “They hadn’t played in a week, and they really prepped well.”

For a majority of the game, App State trailed, earning its first lead around the seven minute mark in the second half. A basket from senior forward Donovan Gregory pushed the Mountaineers ahead 49-47 with 7:06 remaining, but App State was held without another field goal until there were just 37 seconds left. 

“I feel like the ball got stagnant,” Harcum said. “We wasn’t really flowing into our offense, and when that happens, it’s hard for us to score the ball.”

Junior forward CJ Huntley shoots a three-pointer while a young fan holds up three fingers in anticipation of the shot going in against Campbell Nov. 18, 2022. (Hiatt Ellis)

The Mountaineers finished the game hitting two of its final 12 attempts, and suffered their first loss of the season. The team struggled defensively all night, allowing Campbell to get consistent good looks at the basket. The Camels scored 44% of their points on layups. 

App State was led by Gregory, who led the team in points with 21, assists with four and rebounds with seven. Gregory was also tied for the most blocks and steals on the team.
Outside of Gregory, the team shot 31.1% from the floor, 22.7% from three and 40% from the free throw line. 

The following day, the Mountaineers lost to Kennesaw State 71-67 despite having a seven-point lead with just three minutes left in the game. 

The game began with both teams scoring on each of their first two offensive possessions. The Mountaineers knocked down several three-pointers early in the first half, but the Owls responded nearly every time with a quick three-pointer of their own to keep the score close. 

“They’ve got a tough offense to defend,” Kerns said.

After the Owls gained a 24-20 advantage with 6:26 left to play in the first half, a quick 8-0 scoring run sparked by sophomore guard Carvell Teasett gave App State the 28-24 lead until the Owls closed out the first half with a 4-0 scoring run of their own, tying the game 28-28 at halftime. 

Ultimately, both teams struggled to score consistently throughout the first half as the Mountaineers shot just 37.5% from the field and the Owls shot just 33%.

Turnovers were a major problem for the Mountaineers throughout the entire game as they gave the ball up 17 times and allowed the Owls to score 10 points off those turnovers.

“Seventeen turnovers is not gonna get it done,” Kerns said. “Winning is hard, so 17 turnovers, with some of them crucial, is not gonna get it done.”

The Owls started the second half with a quick layup before forcing a Mountaineer turnover and scoring on the other end to jump out to a four-point lead. After a three-pointer from graduate student guard Tyree Boykin trimmed the lead to one, Kennesaw State went on another 8-2 scoring spree to push the lead up to six.

The Owls held on to a small lead for several minutes until a second chance three-pointer from graduate student forward Dibaji Walker tied the game 49-49 with just over 10 minutes left in the game.

After baskets from both teams, another three-pointer by Walker gave the Black and Gold a 54-53 lead, their first lead since late in the first half.

The Mountaineers then orchestrated their own 8-2 scoring run to secure a seven-point lead, their largest lead of the night, with just over three minutes left to play.

Kennesaw State responded with a blistering 12-0 run and took total control of the ball game for the last three minutes en route to their fourth win of the season.

App State finished the tournament Sunday by defeating the Southeast Louisiana Lions 83-74. 

Walker led the Black and Gold with a season-high in scoring, netting 17 points along with six rebounds. Walker was followed by Gregory and Boykin with 16 and 14 points, respectively.

The Mountaineers entered the game after two straight defeats by a combined 9 points. The close games aren’t coming sparse to open the season though. 

Sophomore guard Terence Harcum slips a pocket pass to senior forward Donovan Gregory. Gregory and Harcum both finished with 13 points in the loss to Kennesaw St. Nov. 19, 2022. (Evan Bates)

“We’ve had four straight close games. We’ve won two and lost two,” Kerns said. “After last night, we needed to figure out how to finish close games, and it was a very important step for our players.”

The first half of the game saw both teams trading leads but saw the Mountaineers go scoreless for four and a half of the final six minutes. App State was effective on the offensive glass, leading to free throws that the Mountaineers failed to capitalize on, going five of 11 from the line. App State entered the intermission down 35-30. 

“Defensively, we tried to not let them get paint points and threes,” Kerns said. “They’re a tough stop because they have a lot of players that can get downhill and kick it out to those shooters.” 

With Walker having 10 points off the bench at the break, he and Teasett started the second half to provide some offensive firepower.

Teasett showed that firepower early, opening the half with a three that seemed to light a fire under the team. The Black and Gold continued to fight back when Boykin hit a post hook that gave the Mountaineers their first lead since midway through the first half. 

Going into the final 10 minutes, App State was up 52-48. After a sub that brought in a  lineup of  Walker, Teasett, Harcum, freshman forward Justin Abson and junior guard Xavion Brown, the Mountaineers went on a 7-0 run and shut down the Lions on the defensive end. The scoreboard now read 63-50.

“They’re all very long, versatile players, so defensively, it’s hard to score on those players,” Kerns said. “They cause teams a lot of problems.”

After a potential comeback was thwarted by the Black and Gold, the team locked in and finished the game 83-74. 

“He’s versatile,” said Kerns of Walker. “When we were in the Bahamas, he had 17 points in 12 minutes, and so we’ve seen that he can get hot. He played well and hard last night, he came into the first half the same way, and so we started him in the second half, and I am proud of him.”

Abson, who had three blocked shots tonight and is top 10 in the country in blocks, while also ranking first for freshman by half a block, said he takes a lot of pride in defense and that he wants to prove Kerns right when he puts faith in Abson as a shot blocker. 

App State basketball is back in action Wednesday, Nov. 23 as they take on the East Tennessee State Buccaneers at the Freedom Hall Civic center in Johnson City, Tennessee. ESPN+ will stream the game live.