JONESBORO, Ark. (AStateRedWolves.com) – The Arkansas State University men's basketball team turned in its best defensive performance of this season and battled Murray State almost down to the wire before coming out on the short end of a 61-54 decision this Wednesday (Dec. 19) night in front of a season-high 2,834 fans at the ASU Convocation Center in Jonesboro, Ark.
The Red Wolves had their two-game winning streak snapped in the ESPN3 televised game and also suffered their first loss at home after prevailing in their initial four. ASU dropped to 6-4 overall with the non-conference setback while Murray State won its sixth in a row in improving to 9-1 on the season. The Racers came into tonight's contest receiving votes in both the latest USA Today Coaches and Associated Press Top 25 national polls.
Leading the way for Arkansas State in scoring was junior guard Ed Townsel with 15 points followed by senior forward Brandon Peterson, who recorded his fifth double-double of this season with a 14-point, 11-rebound effort. Freshman guard-forward Raeford "Gator" Worsham chipped in with 13 points off the bench in the loss.
"I have nothing but good things to say what we tried to do," said fifth-year ASU head coach John Brady. "I'm proud of how we played but disappointed in the outcome.
"We played well enough to win the game but didn't play well from an offensive standpoint in we need to shoot the ball better. I don't think anybody has guarded that team (Murray State) as good as we have," added Brady.
Arkansas State led 27-26 at the half and the second half was back and forth most of the way in a half which had nine lead changes and was tied three times. A three-pointer by Murray State'sAll-American Isaiah Canaan broke a 47-all tie with 7:35 remaining in the game and the would go up by six points three-minutes later on a Brandon Garrett dunk to take a 55-49 lead with 4:37 to go. The Red Wolves would counter with five unanswered points to pull within 55-54 on two Ed Townsel free throws with 1:25 to be played. But, Stacy Wilson buried a three-pointer despite being well defended on the key shot to give Murray State a 58-54 advantage with 58 seconds to go. ASU would miss its final three shots while the Racers converted all three tries from the charity stripe, including the final two by Canaan, to seal the Red Wolves' fate.
ASU shot 36.2% for the game, but only 13.3% from three-point territory. Meanwhile, Murray State connected on 41.2% of its shots in the contest and went 28.6% beyond the arc. A telling point in the game's outcome was at the free throw stripe as the Racers were 13-of-15 for 86.7% and the Red Wolves had 10-of-18 for 55.6%.
For Murray State, Isaiah Canaan's 18 points led all scorers and was joined in double figures by Stacy Wilson, who had 12 points and hauled down a game-best 13 rebounds to notch the double-double.
Defensively, A-State forced Murray State into 18 turnovers and produced 13 points of its miscues. ASU garnered four blocked shots and 14 steals to the Racers' eight steals and two shot rejections.
"They're a good team and I compliment them on being as such," said Brady. "Our effort and plan to guard them was extremely effective. We couldn't afford to leave points on the table and we couldn't make the plays at the times we needed to make them."
The Red Wolves will now travel to Kent, Ohio this Saturday (Dec. 22) evening to face the Kent State Golden Flashes in their final non-conference appearance of this season. A 6 p.m. (CT) opening tip off is scheduled at the MAC Center in Kent, Ohio and the contest can be heard live on the EAB Sports Radio Network withMatt Stolz calling the action.