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Mountaineers men’s basketball captures fifth straight win in upset over Auburn

Tre%E2%80%99Von+Spillers+fighting+for+a+layup+against+two+Auburn+players.+Spillers%2C+who+hails+from+Charleston+S.C.%2C+has+91+points%2C14+blocks+and+four+steals+this+season.+Dec+3%2C+2023.
Max Sanborn
Tre’Von Spillers fighting for a layup against two Auburn players. Spillers, who hails from Charleston S.C., has 91 points,14 blocks and four steals this season. Dec 3, 2023.

App State men’s basketball secured arguably their biggest home win ever Sunday afternoon as the Mountaineers upset Auburn 69-64.

“How about them Mountaineers,” said head coach Dustin Kerns, leading off his post-game press conference. “Just a great day for our program and university.”

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With 33 seconds left, graduate student guard Myles Tate hit a step-back three to put the Black and Gold up 67-61. The next possessions resulted in free throws for both teams, but as final buzzers went off, fans stormed the court as App State downed the Tigers.

Christopher Mantis celebrates with fans after App State’s upset win against Auburn. This season, Mantis has 67 points, six steals, two blocks and nine assists. Dec 2, 2023.

“Looking at the time I knew I didn’t want to get all the way to the rim,” Tate said. “I can just get to my shot, and I work on that shot every day.”

Both teams struggled shooting out the gate. The Mountaineers and Tigers combined for 3/11 shooting in the opening four and a half minutes. Bad shot selection and decision making led to a 4-4 tie.

After the slow start, the Tigers heated up going on a 13-4 run forcing Kerns to use an early timeout. Following the timeout, the Black and Gold countered with their own 7-2 run heading into a media timeout with Auburn leading 19-15. 

Holmes Convocation Center erupted after senior forward CJ Huntley stole an inbounds pass after a pair of free throws. Fans banged the back of the chairs in front of their seats as the Mountaineers gained another possession.

The two teams battled back-and-forth for the rest of the half with the Black and Gold leading 33-31 at halftime.

“Twenty more minutes to play,” Harcum said. “Play your butt off, that’s all that was preached in the locker room.”

Huntley and Tate led the team in scoring with seven. Graduate student forward Donovan Gregory and junior guard Terence Harcum had six. Despite shooting 43.5% from the field and 20% from three, the Mountaineers held a two-point lead. 

App State limited the Tigers to 36.4% shooting from the field and 1/13 from downtown. They forced five Auburn turnovers, resulting in nine points off turnovers for App State. 

The Black and Gold never trailed in the second half, as Auburn came as close as one point. 

The Tigers switched to a zone defense to limit drives to the basket. It resulted in the Mountaineers being forced to shoot more perimeter shots. App State responded to the defensive adjustment by shooting 58% from three in the half.

Forward Donovan Gregory going for a fadeaway shot against the Auburn defense on Dec 3. 2023. Gregory, who was a recreation major, has 104 points, three steals, and averages 13 points a game this season. Dec 3. 2023. (Max Sanborn)

Following a three from junior forward Christopher Mantis, the Black and Gold took their largest lead of the game, going up 60-49 with 9:03 remaining. Auburn responded with a 10-2 run over the next five minutes to cut the lead to 62-59.

Neither team scored again until Gregory hit a jumper with 1:22 left. Following a Tiger timeout, Auburn forward Jaylin Williams hit a layup, making it 64-61. Twenty seconds later, Tate got the ball on the left wing, going iso before nailing a step-back three over the outstretched arms of Aden Holloway. 

After miscues from the Tigers and free throws, App State claimed the 69-64 victory over Auburn. 

“Congratulations to App State,” said Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl. “Great environment here, great fan base, they were awesome.”

Tate finished with a team-high 18 points off the bench along with three rebounds and two assists. Gregory and Harcum both finished with 12 points. Freshman guard Jordan Marsh had seven of his nine points in the second half.

“When I got here too, and I was speaking to the students I told them they get one court rush,” Kerns said. “From now on it’s expected.”

The Black and Gold return to action Tuesday as they face Central Penn at 8 p.m. The game will be streamed on ESPN+.

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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.
Max Sanborn, Photographer
Max Sanborn (he/him) is a sophomore Commercial Photography Major, from Indian trail, NC. This is his first year with The Appalachian.
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