MOBILE, Ala. – Behind a season-high 32 points from Justin Forrest, App State men’s basketball posted an 81-71 victory at South Alabama in its Sun Belt opener on Thursday evening.
The win marks the third time the Mountaineers (7-4, 1-0 SBC) have posted a win in their first conference game since joining the Sun Belt in the 2014-15 season. It also marks the second time App State has won its first road Sun Belt contest since joining the league.
The Black and Gold’s seven wins through its first 11 games ties the program’s best start since the 2009-10 season. In addition, it marks the fourth time since the 1999-00 season that the Mountaineers have won at least seven of their first 11 games.
In the victory, the Mountaineers shot 54.4 percent (31-of-57) from the field, which is the second-best shooting percentage for App State this season, trailing only a 54.5 percent (24-of-44) output against Tennessee Tech on Nov. 16.
Forrest went 10-of-17 (58.8 percent) from the field and 9-of-10 (90.0 percent) from the free throw line. He added four rebounds, a season-high tying six assists and a career-high tying four steals. His 32-point scoring output marks the fifth time in his career he has scored 30 or more points in a game.
Isaac Johnson posted his second straight and fourth double-double of the season with 16 points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
Off the bench, Kendall Lewis had nine points and four rebounds, while James Lewis Jr. chipped in with seven points and three rebounds.
In the first half, South Alabama (6-5, 0-1 SBC) jumped out to a 17-11 lead and pushed its advantage to 24-17 with 7:44 remaining in the frame. App State countered with the next nine points to take a 26-24 lead. The Jaguars took the lead back and held a 39-35 advantage, before a basket by Lewis at the buzzer cut the South Alabama advantage to 39-37 at the intermission.
The Mountaineers scored the first seven points of the second half to jump in front 44-39. App State pushed its lead to nine points at 53-44 on a layup from Forrest with 15:53 left to play. The Jaguars trimmed the Mountaineers lead to three at 57-54, only to see the Black and Gold score the next five points to build a 62-54 advantage with 10:01 remaining.
Leading 64-60, App State went on an 8-2 run to open a double-digit lead at 72-62 with 1:16 to play. South Alabama pulled within seven points, but could get no closer as the Mountaineers closed out the victory.
The Black and Gold held a 34-28 edge in the rebounding battle and dominated the points in the paint battle, outscoring the Jaguars 52-24.
The Mountaineers continue Sun Belt play on Saturday with a road contest at Troy at 3 p.m. EST on ESPN+. The Black and Gold then close out non-conference action on Dec. 29 with a 4 p.m. contest at N.C State on ACC Network.
App State men’s basketball would like to thank AutoStar Nissan as its presenting sponsor for the 2019-20 season.