JONESBORO, Ark. (ASU) – Sophomore guard Hanna Qedan knocked down two free throws with 2.1 seconds remaining to secure a 63-58 victory over Western Kentucky in a Sun Belt Conference matchup at the Convocation Center Sunday afternoon.
Qedan scored 12 second half points and knocked down three, 3-pointers to help ASU (6-9, 3-3 SBC) give the Lady Hilltoppers (12-3, 5-1) their first conference and road loss of the season. The Red Wolves held WKU well below their season average of 70.5 points per game and scored 25 points off 24 Lady Topper turnovers.
"The style victory certainly went to Western Kentucky in getting that into a wild affair,". "The one thing that stands out is how well we played defensively. In conference play they were averaging 74 points per game and we held them to 58," ASU head coach Brian Boyer said. "I was just really proud of how aggressive we were defensively and how we were able to just lock in down the stretch and got stops when we needed to."
Ashley Olvera and Qedan each finished with 15 points each to pace Arkansas State, while Jane Morrill added 11 and Jalen O'Bannon scored 12. Carlisha Wyatt pulled down seven rebounds to lead the team, while Quinishia McDowell dished out five assists.
Western Kentucky jumped out to a 16-8 lead in the first half after the Red Wolves started just 2-of-11 from the field. A-State then went on a 14-4 run to take a 22-20 lead, but WKU responded with a 9-2 run take a 29-24 edge. ASU closed the gap 29-28 at halftime after Olvera knocked down a shot with one second to go in the half.
A-State led 52-47 with 5:13 to go, but WKU scored five straight points to tie the score with 2:54 to go. Qedan gave ASU the lead for good with her third, 3-pointer of the game on ASU's next trip down the floor and the Red Wolves went 4-4 from the free throw line in the final minute to secure the victory.
"It is a big part of our game and we probably could have won a game Wednesday night if we would have hit some free throws down the stretch," Boyer said. "You have to make free throws and that starting group went 100 percent tonight. It is not only about getting to the line, but you have to make them too."
ASU's defense forced Western Kentucky in 24 turnovers on the night and matched the Lady Toppers' aggressiveness on nearly every possession. The Red Wolves tied a season high with 11 steals, including three from Qedan. ASU also put WKU on the free throw just seven times and limited the Lady Toppers' to just 2-of-11 shooting from beyond the arc.
"I was very nervous about our defense because we had elected to take a very aggressive approach to them," Boyer said. "A lot of the teams that we had seen on film were sagging and switching and losing. So we just decided we were going to take a chance and be aggressive against them and we did an excellent job."
Arkansas State finished 13-16 from the free throw line and hit 42.6 percent (23-54) of its shots from the field, including 50 percent in the second half.
Chasity Gooch led Western Kentucky with 16 points, while Alexis Govan scored 14 and Chaney Means scored 10. Gooch also finished with 14 rebounds on the afternoon.
ASU will return to action Wednesday, Jan. 9 for a home matchup at the Convocation Center with Florida International. Tipoff is set for 7:05 p.m.