By Bobby Neal for App State Sports. JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – App State men’s basketball came out of the trenches with a win after a back-and-forth physical game at Freedom Hall, defeating East Tennessee State, 74-70, on Nov. 23.
This was the third time this season that the Mountaineers won after trailing at halftime, and the 21st time under head coach Dustin Kerns (2018-present). It was also App State’s first win on the road against the Buccaneers since Feb. 9, 2005, when the teams were SoCon foes.
The Mountaineers were up by one with 24 seconds left when Justin Abson grabbed a crucial offensive rebound, reset the play, and threw a bounce pass to Tyree Boykin who finished inside with a finger-roll that sealed the advantage for App State.
Terence Harcum opened the game with two quick three-pointers, helping the Mountaineers jump out to an early 8-3 lead. In between those shots, Donovan Gregory drove the lane and scored his 800th career point in the Black & Gold.
The Buccaneers responded and went into the halftime break with a 33-32 lead. App State forced 10 turnovers in the first half while only allowing four points in the paint from ETSU.
Four minutes into the second half, Xavion Brown stole the ball and ran it the length of the court for a fast-break one-handed dunk that changed the course of the rest of the game.
Two minutes later, Boykin spotted up from deep to give App State the lead for the first time since the 16-minute mark of the first half, following a turnaround jump shot from Gregory who led the Mountaineers in scoring with 14.
Dibaji Walker scored all 12 of his points in the last 14 minutes of the game, starting with back-to-back finishes at the rim to make the score 49-45.
After another fast break dunk from Brown, Walker had a fast break play of his own with a euro-step after a steal to give the Mountaineers a 55-50 advantage with 10 minutes left. Christopher Mantis followed with his 10th point of the game on an impressive night from the field (4-6).
At the 7:33 mark, Walker shocked the crowd with a dunk through contact against ETSU’s Jalen Haynes. After a scary fall, Walker got up and made the foul shot. He followed with a second-chance bucket on the very next play to give App State its largest lead of the game (62-52).
The teams continued to fight as Gregory went 4-4 in the closing minutes from the free-throw line to keep the Mountaineers ahead for the rest of the game. He went 8-8 from the foul line on the night for the second game in a row.
The Mountaineers secured 15 steals throughout the game, leading to 23 points off of 19 ETSU turnovers. App State also had 34 points in the paint compared to ETSU’s 22.
App State will return home for a contest against Furman on Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m.