BOONE -- It took longer than regulation, but Appalachian State broke a three-game losing streak on Thursday.
App State (10-9, 4-4 Sun Belt Conference) outlasted Arkansas State in an 83-80 win. Justin Forrest hit a long 3-pointer with 12 seconds remaining to send the game to overtime. Then Adrian Delph took over, scoring 6 of the Mountaineers’ 11 overtime points.
Delph hit a pull-up jumper in the paint to give App State the lead with 35 seconds remaining, then registered a decisive block on the other end to help the Mountaineers seal it.
Forrest led the team with 20 points, Delph added 15 while post players Hunter Seacat and James Lewis Jr. combined for 23.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
App State shot 36 free throws, making 29 of them.
That’s a strong number for a team that’s had spotty success from the line -- App State’s currently last in the Sun Belt at 64.3 percent.
But Thursday was only the second game that App State has hit more than 80 percent of its free throws, and it’s the best percentage (80.6) for the Mountaineers in a game where they had more than 20 attempts.
Coach Dustin Kerns said at first, he was hesitant to even bring free throws up. He didn’t want to make it a bigger deal. But eventually, it was time for the team to talk about it. And it made a difference, he said.
“I didn’t want to make it a mental thing, but it was time where we just needed to talk about it,” Kerns said. “. . . I think them talking about it maybe just got them over it a little bit.
App State has hit at least 70 percent of free throws in four of their last five games.
Forrest sets the pace early
The App State offense found some early traction through their junior leading scorer and got a big shot out of him late.
In an 8-minute stretch, Forrest scored 13 of his 15 first-half points while assisting on two easy scores.
He opened the game for App State with a 3-pointer, following that up with back-to-back assists on James Lewis’ layups before burying another 3. He drew fouls on two other 3-point attempts, hitting 5-of-6 free throws, then chipped in a layup.
Then he popped up again at the end of the game. On top of the game-tying 3 against Arkansas State, Forrest also hit a game-winner versus Georgia Southern in a 74-72 victory on Jan. 4.
“That’s big time,” Lewis said. “Hitting 3s in those situations is tough, and he’s able to do it.
“I’m glad to have him on our team because of stuff like that.”
Return of Isaac Johnson and O’Showen Williams
App State saw the return of Johnson and Williams after both missed the previous two games. Johnson was battling a lingering injury from a fall at N.C. State while Williams dealt with a concussion.
Williams responded by notching his first career double-double, where he registered 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Johnson stayed mainly quiet, but finally got on the board with a second-half 3.
The win was much needed, but so was the need to see a team fully healthy again, Kerns said. And he thinks it helped in the second half as well, when Forrest dealt with cramps in one of his calves.
“We showed our teams highlights of ourselves, obviously with everybody healthy, late last night about 10 o’clock,” Kerns said. “. . . I really felt that walking out of that locker room, it gave them some piece of mind.
“But to come out and win against a really good team? . . . I thought it was huge.”