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JMU men return the favor in rematch thriller with App State, 63-57

By David Rogers. BOONE, N.C. — In the Feb. 4 home-and-home rematch at the Holmes Convocation Center, in front of the season’s largest crowd (3,870), James Madison returned a “favor” in defeating Appalachian State, 63-57.

A first meeting on Jan. 7 saw the Mountaineers surprise the then nation’s No. 1-ranked scoring offense, limiting the Dukes to just 62 points while going on a tear, offensively, to win 71-62. With just over eight minutes to go in that Harrisonburg, Va. tilt, App State led by as many as 20 points before James Madison was able to close the gap, but the Dukes still fell way short of their season-long scoring average closer to 85 points per game, according to NCAA statistics.

But in the rematch, 36 percent free throw shooting by App State was unlikely to get the job done. The Mountaineers made only five of 14 shots from the charity stripe, nine points missed that would have made all the difference in the world.

But there were other shortcomings, too, to have made a difference. The Mountaineers’ three players coming off the bench in the on-court rotation are collectively credited with playing 40 minutes. Points scored by the trio? Zero. Christopher Mantis, Tamell Pearson and Dibaji Walker did take seven shots between them, but none fell through the hoop and kissed the net.

The Mountaineers’ bench performance is surprising when you consider App State’s different combinations of bench players came into the came ranked at No. 53 out of 352 NCAA D1 programs. Those “reserves” (all have also started games) rotating in have been averaging more than 24 points per game, according to stats maintained, regularly updated and published by the NCAA.

Nonetheless, there were thrills for the partisan home crowd, on a night when former head coach Bobby Cremins was among the spectators. Cremins was at the helm when App State made the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship tournament in 1979, as a member of the Southern Conference. It was the first time App State had qualified for “The Big Dance,” otherwise known as “March Madness.” They have made it only two other times, in 2000 (head coach, Buzz Peterson) and 2021 (current head coach, Dustin Kerns).

Cremins and all the rest of the Holmes Center fans saw the Mountaineers dig a hole for themselves, going down by 14 points with 42 seconds left in the first half. App State guard Terence Harcum then offered a foreshadowing of what was to come after intermission when he drained a 3-pointer just three seconds before the halftime buzzer, narrowing the deficit to 11 points at the break.

Harcum hit another 3-pointer just 15 seconds into the second half to pick up where he left off. Another basket inside by freshman Justin Abson followed and suddenly the Mountaineers had closed the deficit to a manageable 6 points, 30-24.

JMU guard Takal Molson countered with a couple of made free throws, a layup and a 3-pointer to stretch the Dukes’ lead back out to 11 points, but App State’s C J Huntley and Donovan Gregory intermixed some baskets of their own to keep the Mountaineers in the hunt, at 37-30.

Consecutive 3-pointers by Harcum brought the Mountaineers to within one point, at 37-36, which also brought hope to the App State faithful raising the roof off the arena walls a smidgen in appreciation.

But the trail to another Sun Belt Conference win ran cold at that point. Good offensive production from the Dukes’ Molson, Tyree Ihenacho, Terrence Edwards, and Julian Wooden, along with disruptive defense vs. Mountaineer possessions down the stretch kept App State at bay.

With the loss, the Mountaineers’ season record fell to 13-12 overall and 6-6 in Sun Belt Conference play. They’ll look to improve on that Feb. 9 when they travel to Monroe, La., to face ULM (11-14 overall, 7-5 SBC). They stay on the road for a Feb. 11 tilt at South Alabama, in Mobile.


  • With his scoring contributions early in the second half, senior Donovan Gregory became the 35th App State men’s basketball player to reach 1,000 career points scored.
  • According to records kept by App State’s Strategic Communications team, Gregory became one of “at least 13 players in program history” with 1,000 points and 500 rebounds.
  • A Charlotte native, Gregory cleared the boards for his 500th rebound on Dec. 2, against Marshall.
  • Also on Feb. 4, Gregory became the seventh player in program history to record 150 career steals.
  • Freshman Justin Abson continued to make an impression on Division 1 basketball with three blocked shots against James Madison. That increases his season total to 57, the most ever by an App State freshman and the third-most by a Mountaineer. The three blocks on Feb. 4 moves Abson into a tie for 9th in the nation with Isaiah Cozart of Eastern Kentucky and Liam Robbins of Vanderbilt. The App State record for most blocks in a season is at 75, recorded by Jeremy Clayton in 2007-2008.


  • APP Donovan Gregory: 21 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal
  • APP Justin Abson: 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 blocked shots, 2 points
  • APP Terence Harcum: 20 points (five 3-pointers, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal
  • APP Xavion Brown: 12 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals
  • JMU Takal Molson: 16 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists
  • JMU Terrence Edwards: 14 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals
  • JMU Julien Wooden: 12 points, 4 rebounds
  • JMU Noah Freidel: 10 rebounds
  • JMU Tyree Ihenacho: 10 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block, 2 steals






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