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Defense wins day for App State in win over nation’s No. 1 scoring offense, 71-62

By David Rogers. HARRISONBURG, Va. — A big first half set the proverbial table for Appalachian State on Jan. 7 against James Madison, including a 20-point lead with just over 10 minutes remaining in the game. But nine turnovers and a flurry of missed shots in the closing minutes allowed the Dukes to narrow (but not close) the deficit as the Mountaineers won their second Sun Belt Conference tilt in as many games, 71-62.

Just about everything went App State’s way in the first half. Fifty percent shooting from the field, an 18-4 advantage over the Dukes contributed by the Mountaineer bench and converting JMU’s nine first half turnovers into 11 points all combined for a great start in creating a 15-point, Mountaineer halftime lead.

After dropping a one-point decision to Sun Belt rival Texas State on Thursday (Jan. 5), 63-62, but sporting the No. 1 scoring offense nationally in NCAA Division I men’s basketball, the Dukes expected more for the 3,540 announced fans in Atlantic Union Bank Center.

With the sudden rally in the closing minutes, the JMU faithful were almost handed a late holiday present. But a made free throw by forward C J Huntley to extend the tenuous Mountaineer lead to 69-62 with 17 seconds remaining, then a steal by Terence Harcum at the 12 second mark all but sealed the App State win, especially with Harcum being fouled on a fast break up court following the steal. He made both free throws, then two wild 3-point attempts by the Dukes were off the mark as the clocked ticked to zero.

Harcum came off the bench to record a game-high 16 points, with double figures on the offense end also contributed by Huntley (15 points)  and Tyree Boykin (14). The Dukes’ starting guard Terrence Edwards captured game-high scoring honors with 17 points.

Much of the Dukes’ late damage came on six fast breaks resulting from Mountaineer turnovers in the last six minutes of play, but fast break opportunities are just about the only type of shot where App State fell short of the JMU. The Mountaineers held a 27-16 advantage in points off the bench. They had a narrow, 16-14 advantage off of forced turnovers. And they had a whopping, 21-12 advantage on three point shots.

For Huntley, the Thursday and Saturday basketball games evolved as a weekend birthday celebration extraordinaire. After tipping in the winning shot on Jan. 5 just before the final buzzer to beat Coastal, he followed that up with a 15 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals and a block scoring line against James Madison.

A key reason for this Mountaineer win, however, was the team’s defense vs. the nation’s No. 1 scoring offense coming into the game. App State held the Dukes scoreless for an eight minute period early in the first half, and then did it again for more than six minutes from late in the first half overlapping into the second half.

With the win, the Mountaineers improve their overall record on the season to 9-8 overall, 2-2 in the young Sun Belt Conference season. James Madison drops to 11-6, 2-2.

App State aims to continue the team’s winning ways with upcoming Sun Belt contests at the Holmes Center, including vs. Georgia Southern on Jan. 12 and vs. Troy on Jan. 14.




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