App State to face Duke next season

Appalachian State’s men’s basketball team will play Duke, coached by Mike Krzyzewski, next season.

BOONE — Thanks to the COVID-19 virus, Appalachian State men’s basketball team is not allowed to play in any games or even recruit until April 15.

That doesn’t mean the Mountaineers aren’t lining up the 2020-21 schedule. App State coach Dustin Kerns confirmed that Appalachian State will play at Duke in a game in the 2020-21 season.

The Mountaineers return to Cameron Indoor Stadium for the first time since 2016, when the Blue Devils beat App State 93-58.

Kerns isn’t worried about what happened in 2016. His Mountaineers are coming off an 18-15, 11-9 mark in the Sun Belt during the 2019-20 season. The Mountaineers also return leading scorer Justin Forrest, who was named first-team All-Sun Belt Conference.

“Duke reached out and those games are not easy to get,” Kerns said. “We’re looking to play a national game and those are games we want to be a part of.”

The Blue Devils are coming off a 25-6 season and finished second with a 15-5 record in the ACC. The COVID-19 virus wiped out the ACC and NCAA men’s basketball tournaments, leaving Duke’s final game of the 2019-20 season an 89-76 win over North Carolina.

Kerns hopes a win over the Blue Devils, or at least a solid showing, will be beneficial to the Mountaineers in the long run of building a program.

“These are the games we want to raise the profile of our program at Appalachian State and also get on a national scale basketball-wise,” Kerns said.

This will be the first time Kerns has been a head coach in Cameron Indoor Stadium, but he has coached as an assistant while serving at Santa Clara and Wofford.

“It’s certainly one of the most historic venues in college basketball against a Mount Rushmore program of college basketball,” Kerns said. “These are the games that we aspire to be a part of and play in to continue to raise the program.”

Appalachian State went 0-2 against Power Five programs in the 2019-20 season. After falling behind, the Mountaineers nearly rallied past Michigan before falling 79-71 in App State’s first game of the season on Nov. 5.

North Carolina State beat visiting App State 72-60 in Raleigh on Dec. 29.

Kerns said the Mountaineers will prepare for Duke the same way they will prepare for any other opponent. Kerns pointed out that the Stephen F. Austin left Cameron Indoor with an 85-83 overtime win over the Blue Devils on Nov. 26.

“I think you treat it like any other game,” Kerns said. “That’s what it is. It’s just another game. You can’t get beat by the banners and the arena and all that. The ball gets tipped and that’s the beauty. They lost to Stephen F. Austin this past year. You’ve got to go in there with confidence and we do. Otherwise I wouldn’t schedule the game.”

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