Mountaineers split road trip, enter final stretch of season


Courtesy of Cade Bettinger, App State Athletics

Head coach Dustin Kerns talks to his team during a timeout Feb. 4, 2023.

Sam Vanolinda, Reporter

After dropping two straight games last week against Marshall and JMU, App State traveled to Monroe, Louisiana to face off against the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

The Mountaineers were able to grind out a defensive-minded win, 52-45, at the Fant-Ewing Coliseum Thursday.

App State set the tone early, holding ULM to 21.43% shooting in the first half. The Black and Gold went into halftime with a 31-19 lead, with junior forward CJ Huntley leading the team in scoring with eight points.

In the second half, both teams were unable to get much going offensively, trading scoring droughts. App State’s longest drought was 3:58 without a bucket.

App State continued forcing ULM into tough shots, with the Warhawks only increasing their shooting percentage to 25.4% for the game.

Despite ULM chipping at the lead, the Mountaineers never trailed in the game and held on for the win, holding an opponent under 50 points for the second time this season in conference play.

The scoring was spread out for App State, with 17 total bench points. Huntley led the scoring with 11, with freshman forward Justin Abson nearing a double-double with eight points and 10 rebounds, along with three blocks.

Graduate transfer guard Tyree Boykin scored five points in his return after missing seven games due to injury.

App State traveled east to Mobile, Alabama to take on South Alabama Saturday. They were unable to go two for two on the road trip, falling 57-74 at the Mitchell Center, moving to 14-13 overall and 7-7 in conference play. 

The Jaguars came out of the gates hot and did not look back. They shot 70.83% from the field in the first half and developed a 14-point lead going into the break, 40-26.

The deficit was too much to overcome in the second half for the Mountaineers, with attempts at a comeback cut short by big shots from Jaguars guard Isaiah Moore, who is fourth in the Sun Belt in scoring with 18.8 points per game.

Guard Owen White was also firing on all cylinders offensively for the Jaguars, shooting 5-5 from the field and 2-2 from the line, ending with 14 points.

The Jaguars were able to hit contested shots on the perimeter and dominate in the paint — a recipe for disaster for the Black and Gold. South Alabama outscored App State 42-34 in the paint and shot 41.7% from three compared to App State’s 22.2%.

Senior forward Donovan Gregory led the Mountaineers in scoring with 14, with two teammates also in double figures. Sophomore guard Terence Harcum had 11, and Justin Abson finished with 10.

The Mountaineers are now 8th in the Sun Belt, with a 7-7 record. The final stretch of the season will have large implications for the seeding in the Sun Belt Tournament, with App State playing two teams in their final four games that surround them in the standings, Georgia Southern who are also 7-7, and Old Dominion who are 8-6. Wins against those teams could guarantee at least 5th and a better first-round matchup. 

App State will return to the Holmes Center Thursday to face Texas State at 6:30 p.m. tipping off its final home stand of the year.