By Zach Smith. BOONE, N.C. — “How about them Mountaineers?” App State head coach Dustin Kerns said after defeating Auburn in front of the largest home crowd since 2009. The Mountaineers defeated the Tigers, 69-64, in the first-ever nationally televised game at the Holmes Convocation Center.
App State once again proved they can rely on multiple scorers. Four Mountaineers posted double-digit points. Junior guard Myles Tate led the way for the home team with 18 points, while Donovan Gregory (12), Terence Harcum (12) and CJ Huntley (10) rounded out the leading scorers.
The first half was as close as the Mountaineer faithful could have hoped. Auburn rode a 9-0 run to a 19-10 lead but App State countered with 10 straight points to put the Tigers’ largest lead to bed. The rest of the half was back-and-forth with neither side taking a lead of more than three points. Freshman guard Jordan Marsh put the exclamation mark on the first period by hitting on a driving layup with under five seconds on the clock. App State took a 33-31 lead into the locker room with all 7,037 fans in attendance on their feet.
… I’ll remember that court-storming because I really wanted to get that moment for our players/
The Mountaineers never relinquished their lead in the second half, despite Auburn’s best efforts. App State went on a 7-0 run halfway through the period, and junior forward Christopher Mantis drained a three-pointer to give the home team their largest lead of the day. Shortly after, Auburn went on a 6-0 run of their own, closing the deficit to three, but a Gregory midrange jumper and a Tate 3-pointer put the game to bed for the Mountaineers.
Dustin Kerns showed pride in his team, afterwards.
“Just a great day for our program and the university,” Kerns said. “Just so proud of our players, you know. (Auburn has) a really good team. They’ll be in the top 25 here in a couple weeks.”
Kerns was also sure to give credit to the fourth-largest crowd in App State men’s basketball history.
“Thanks to everybody that came,” Kerns said. “That can do one of two things: it can really raise the level of your team and it can hurt the other team and I thought it did both. So, really, really thankful for all the people that came out to be a part of this moment.”
Kerns spoke on what the historic victory meant for him and how people view App State basketball.
“When I met with [App State Director of Athletics] Doug Gillin and I was interviewing here, he asked me ‘what are you going to do to change the perception of App State basketball?’” Kerns said. “And he believed that I was the guy to do it. It’s been a lot of work with a lot of people, and I definitely think the perception of App State basketball is changing. I’ll remember that court-storming because I really wanted to get that moment for our players.”
Kerns compared the victory over Auburn to another iconic App State upset.
“You know, the Michigan game (2007) was a moment for App State football,” Kerns said. “Maybe this was our moment.”
Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl has made it a habit to get mid-majors on Auburn’s schedule. According to Pearl, his appreciation for smaller schools dates back to the beginning of his coaching career at D-II Southern Indiana. As an assistant coach at Iowa, a road trip to Northern Iowa solidified the idea that he would continue to play mid-majors as he moved on to head coach at the high-major level.
Pearl was complimentary of App State and their fan base post-game.
“Great environment in here, great fan base,” Pearl said. “We knew coming in this was going to be like playing a middle to lower-half SEC team, so credit them. Their guards, in particular, lined us up and drove us.”
Pearl also was sure to mention his team’s sub-par shooting.
“I think when you miss 10 free throws and make nine, and you miss 24 threes and make three, it’s not going to win many games,” Pearl said. “Some of that was defense, but a lot of it was open shots.”
For Auburn, junior Johni Broome posted his second consecutive double-double, scoring a game-high 21 points while grabbing 13 rebounds. Sophomore guard Tre Donaldson was the only other Tiger to score in double-digits, cashing in for 12 points.
The win improves App State’s win streak to five, improving the early season record to 6-2. Auburn’s loss snaps a five-game win streak, the record falling to 5-2. The Tigers’ only other loss on the season was to No. 20 Baylor at a neutral site.
Auburn’s next test isn’t until Saturday (Dec. 9), when they’ll travel to Atlanta to face Indiana. That game will be broadcast at 1:00p.m. on ESPN2.
App State returns to action on Tuesday, when they’ll team up with the women’s basketball team for a doubleheader at the Holmes Convocation Center. App State’s women’s team will tipoff against College of Charleston at 5:30p.m., and the men’s team will face D-II Central Penn approximately 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first game. Both games can be streamed on ESPN+.