Appalachian State entered Sunday’s finals of its own multi-team event, desperate for a win over Southeastern Louisiana after a 2-0 start to the weekend. The Mountaineers had lost two winnable games after overcoming the stretch of two narrow losses.

App State led for just over four minutes in the first half, struggling with shots from the floor (34.5%) and more than half of the attempts came from three-point range (5-15). Poor free-throw shooting from the previous game had also carried over temporarily at 5-11 before halftime.

Trailing 35-30 from the break, App State implemented a different strategy of working the ball inside rather than being so dependent on three-point attempts.

App State had leveled the game 40-40, including two inside points, as the Mountaineers then scored on six of seven possessions, with every shot coming from below the free-throw line. Donovan Gregory scored six of those 12 points, and App State had carved out a 52-48 advantage.

Meanwhile, SELU’s offense, three-point dependent in the first half with 18 points on 41.6 percent of the arc, declined sharply and the Lions remained scoreless on four simultaneous possessions.

After Terrence Harcum was fouled in a three-point match and Dibaji Walker made a three-pointer from a drive-and-kick assist, App State was suddenly up to a 59-50 lead. From that point on, the Mountaineers only attempted two more three-point shots (0-2) and instead focused on pushing the ball towards the edge.

The combination of post scores and associated free throws would cap App State’s lead to 14 points on two separate occasions, and the Mountaineers led 75-63 with just 2:34 remaining.

That’s when the late-game dips erupted again after the previous two losses as SELU hit a frantic 9-2 scoring run over the next 1:49 and cut App State’s lead to 77-72 with 00:45 .

But this time, the Mountaineers secured the win with six finishing points, including 4-4 ​​from the free throw line, and SE Louisiana ran out of three-point shooting magic.

App State’s 83-74 win in the event finals came thanks to that dedication to inside goals and resurgent free-throw shooting, with the Mountaineers converting 13-14 in the second half alone.


Playing inside out, with App State committing to scoring at least one paint touch on every possession, is clear when the Mountaineers are at their best offensively. As further evidence for this theory:

  • App State has led at halftime in only one of five games this season against DI opponents. In the four games without a lead at the break, the Mountaineers averaged just seven points in the paint in those first halves. The only time App State led at halftime was in the win in Louisville, when the Mountaineers scored 18 color points before halftime.
  • In those four games where it didn’t lead at halftime, App State each improved its post-half score after halftime. But in two of those games, where App State rallied in the second half to win, the Mountaineers averaged 21 points in the paint while that average in the losses was just 14 points.

In summary, from their three DI wins to date, App State is averaging nearly 30 paint points, including 19.3 in the first half. For Mountaineer losses, the total point average decreases by (-25)%.

Not coincidentally, this in-paint engagement also correlates with free-throw volume, where App State averages nearly six more points per game from the line in its wins.

Working with the ball inside also means that more mountaineers are included in the offensive flow, which made a big difference against SELU. Seven different players scored in the first half, but only three climbers accounted for almost 90 percent of the total points. After halftime, as the ball moved inside out, nine different players scored and seven of the nine scored between 6 and 10 points.

This balanced attack resulted in App State’s best single-half scoring total of the young season (39) against the DI competition.

Dibaji Walker was highly efficient off the bench, scoring 17 points on 7-10 shooting, Donovan Gregory had 16 points (8-8 FT), eight rebounds and two steals, and Tyree Boykin wasn’t great from the ground (4-13) , but made 14 points and grabbed five rebounds.

But the balanced attack was really the star of the offense, as the Mountaineers converted 60 percent of their shots in the second half. App State also called for six offensive rebounds after halftime, resulting in 11 points for the second chance.


The most important thing App State did defensively was lock down SELU’s top two scorers and limit the duo to just nine points on 2-17 shooting from the floor. The Lions could still match their season average with 74, but the rest of the lineup had to stretch offensively to make up for their leading point producers’ missing 14 points.

App State’s 38 defensive rebounds were a season high against a DI opponent, although SELU converted 14 offensive rebounds into 14 second chance points, both season highs.

Justin Abson blocked 10 shots over the weekend, adding to his league standings, and Gregory recorded five steals in the event.

It wasn’t App State’s best defense in the season, especially later in the games, but the Mountaineers held SELU at 34.7 percent from the floor, a 25 percent reduction compared to the Lions’ incoming average.


The Mountaineers will only play one game before Thanksgiving this week, but it’s a big one. App State travels to nearby Johnson City to take on longtime Southern Conference rivals East Tennessee State. This will be the 127th meeting of the series, with the Bucs owning the most recent win of 2019.

ETSU, 3-2, stumbles after a disappointing loss at Tennessee Tech on Sunday, though the Bucs are yet to lose a home game this season. This is a potentially explosive offense that’s averaging almost 78 points per game, despite 62 points in that last loss.

The Bucs have three players averaging double-digit points and at least eight different players averaging at least six points per game. ETSU also aggressively attacks the rim in halfcourt, averaging 24 free throw attempts per game.

It’s been a tumultuous past two seasons at Johnson City since Wake Forest’s current head coach Steve Forbes left ETSU and new boss Buc Desmond Oliver is early in his second season, having last won 15 games in 2021-22 . After losing his top scorer and top rebounder to the transfer portal after last season, he has replenished it with four new portal signings.