JONESBORO, Ark. (ASU) – The Arkansas State University men's basketball team built upon its recent success in Sun Belt Conference (SBC) play as the Red Wolves won their third straight with a 66-60 overtime nail-biter over highly-regarded Middle Tennessee thisThursday (Jan. 3) night before 2,937 fans at the ASU Convocation Center in Jonesboro, Ark.
The Red Wolves, who are now 9-5 overall and 3-2 in the SBC's West Division this season with the win, outscored the Blue Raiders 14-8 in overtime and eliminated an early two-point deficit (54-52) at the start of the extraframe en route to snapping MTSU's four-game winning string.
ASU reeled off five straight points to pull out in front at 59-54 two-plus minutes into overtime and never relinquished its lead. Middle Tennessee, which drops to 11-4 overall and 3-1 in the conference, would close the gap to a deuce on two occasions – 59-57 with 1:37 remaining and then at 60-58 as 1:01 remained to be played. However, the Red Wolves never wavered as free throw by senior guard Marcus Hooten proceeded by a dunk on their next possession courtesy of senior forward Brandon Peterson stretched ASU's lead to five (63-58) with 27 ticks left on the clock. MTSU would then hit a jumper to pull within 63-60 with 18 seconds remaining, but was forced to foul in order to stop the clock. Sophomore guard Rakeem Dickerson converted on both his free throws a little over a second later and then Hooten stoled the ball on the Blue Raiders' ensuing possession and was fouled as only nine seconds was all that remained in overtime. Hooten made good on his second attempt from the charity stripe as the Red Wolves' margin increased by six as MTSU's final shot at the buzzer was off the mark.
"We overcame some adversity tonight and our guys showed a lot of toughness and character," said ASU head coach John Brady. "I was proud of how they fought and came back in overtime to make enough plays for us to win.
"This was a team victory for us as everyone who played contributed in some way," added Brady.
The game went back and forth the entire 40 minutes of regulation as the lead exchanged hands 14 times and was tied on eight occasions.. The first half alone featured six ties and four lead changes as the Red Wolves shot 37% (10-27) to MTSU's 33% (9-27) in the opening 20 minutes to hold a slim 26-25 edge at the break.
The two teams came out in the second half battling one another as defense controlled the play. Neither squad was able to take a lead of more than three points through the first 17 minutes as MTSU held a 47-44 advantage with 2:26 left. However, a three-ball from the corner by junior guard Ed Townsel 12 seconds later pulled the Red Wolves into a 47-all tie at the 2:14 mark. ASU would proceed to score four unanswered points to claim a 51-47 advantage with 1:22 to go as Marcus Hooten knocked down pair of free throws. MTSU's Marcos Knight made a layup as the Blue Raiders got back to within a basket at 51-49 with 55 seconds remaining. The Blue Raiders looked to regain the lead on their next ball possession, but Ed Townsel was fouled after rebounding Marcos Knight's triple try with four seconds to be played. Townsel converted on his second free throw following a MTSU timeout to make it a three-point game at 52-49 with four ticks left, but Tweety Knight took the inbounds pass and sprinted pastmidcourt before launching at 28-footer well beyond the arc which drew nothing but net just before the clock reached all zeros as the regulation buzzer sounded.
Brandon Peterson led the Red Wolves with 15 points, which included a 5-7 effort at the free throw line. He was joined in double figures by Marcus Hooten, who posted 14 points. Ed Townsel chipped in with nine points before fouling out as nine individuals earned a place in the scoring column. Peterson pulled down a game-high tying nine rebounds while Townsel picked up eight boards as ASU produced a 43-42 advantage on the glass.
Paving the way offensively for Middle Tennessee was the two Knight's as Marcos led all scorers with 23 and Tweety tossed in 12 points. Marcos Knight also garnered nine rebounds to share top honors with Peterson.
Neither team shot the ball well, which could be attributed to the solid defensive effort put forth by both squads. ASU went for 38.9% (21-54) from the floor and was at 18.8% (3-16) in three-point attempts while putting up 36 shots from the charity stripe and making good on 21 for a 58.3% success rate. MTSU fared no better from the floor as the Blue Raiders were 19-59 for 32.2%, which included a 3-13 performance beyond the arc for 23.1%. MTSU was 19-of-27 for 70.4% in free throws. Both teams forced 16 turnovers while the Red Wolves bettered MTSU in both points in the paint(30-22) and off the bench (30-22)
"The crowd was great tonight and their support for our team was really appreciated," said Brady. "Our fans hung in there with us and stayed with us to the end. Tonight was a good quality win for our team against a tough Middle Tennessee team. I hope this (the win) creates greater interest for more Red Wolves' fans to come out and support us as it would surely help our team and would be much appreciated."
Arkansas State continues conference action on its home court this Saturday (Jan. 5) night as the Red Wolves face the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers in Jonesboro. The contest, which is scheduled for a 7:05 p.m. (CT) start time at the ASU Convocation Center, will be televised live both on ESPN 3 and ESPN Full Court. Tickets for the matchup and all remaining 2012-13 ASU home games can be purchased by contacting the ASU Ticket Office at (870) 972-27891 or 1-888-ASU-FANS. For ticket information and latest Red Wolves' news, log onto the A-State Athletics official website at www.RedWolves.com<http://www.redwolves.com/?&&SPSID=35066&SPID=2746&DB_OEM_ID=7200>.