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Takeaways from Mountaineers upset thriller over Tigers

Graduate+student+guard+Myles+Tate+sizes+up+an+Auburn+defender+Dec.+3.+Tate+had+a+team-high+18+points+against+the+Tigers.
Max Sanborn
Graduate student guard Myles Tate sizes up an Auburn defender Dec. 3. Tate had a team-high 18 points against the Tigers.

App State downed Auburn Sunday 69-64, in front of a sellout crowd for the first time since 2009. While no team is perfect, this Mountaineer squad showed it can hang with anyone in the country.

Eight or nine starters

Head coach Dustin Kerns has said frequently throughout the season he believes he has eight or nine starters at his disposal. Against the Tigers, this was put to the test as four different players finished with double-digits in the scoring column. 

Graduate student guard Myles Tate led the way with 18 points off the bench, including the go-ahead three with 33 seconds remaining.

With sophomore forward Justin Abson stuck in foul trouble due to guarding Auburn’s Johni Broome, senior forward CJ Huntley and junior forward Tre’Von Spillers stepped up to the challenge on both ends of the court. The pair combined for 15 points, eight rebounds and five steals. 

Freshman guard Jordan Marsh provided a spark off the bench in the second half, scoring seven of his nine points. 

Down the stretch when the Black and Gold needed a basket, graduate student forward Donovan Gregory hit a mid-range jumper to break the dry spell.

Defense first

To begin the season, the Black and Gold have hung their hats on the defensive end of the court. They limited Auburn to 64 points, short of their 78.2 season average. 

On the season, the Mountaineers are limiting teams to 64.6 points per game on 37% shooting. During the Black and Gold’s five-game win streak, teams are averaging 59.2 points per game on 36.4% shooting from the field.

“Just play App State defense,” said junior guard Terence Harcum. “I feel like we’re a really good defensive team and that showed tonight.”

As the famous mantra says, defense wins championships.

Just another game?

The last time a power-five conference opponent played App State in Boone was North Carolina for the grand opening of Holmes Convocation Center in 2000. Twenty-three years later, Mountaineer fans witnessed an SEC team take the court against the Black and Gold. 

As soon as the final buzzer sounded, fans immediately stormed the court in celebration. It marked the second consecutive year with a power-five win after the Mountaineers won at Louisville last season.

Postgame, Kerns was emotional when asked about changing the perception of App State basketball. After taking a moment, Kerns said when he was initially interviewed for the coaching position in 2019, Director of Athletics Doug Gillin asked him about how to change the program’s perception.

“He believed I was the guy to do it,” Kerns said. “It’s been a lot of work by a lot of people and I thankfully think this perception of App State basketball has officially changed.”

While Auburn counts as one win, this one means more.

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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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