JONESBORO, Ark. (AStateRedWolves.com) – Arkansas State freshman forward Jalen O'Bannon came off the bench to score a career-tying 13 points, including the game's last four, to help lead the Red Wolves to a 49-43 victory over Florida International Wednesday night at the Convocation Center in a Sun Belt Conference women's basketball game.
The Red Wolves claimed their second straight victory and have now won five of their last seven games, improving to 7-9 overall and 4-3 in league action. A-State handed FIU just its second loss over its last nine games, bringing the Golden Panthers record to 9-6 overall and 3-3 in Sun Belt play.
"We need to make this win significant," ASU head coach Brian Boyer said. "This can be a really good win for us but we have to do everything else from here on out to make this a good win for us. I think that is a very good basketball team and I am very proud of my team for being able to fight to get two hard fought wins against a very good team like that."
Senior guard Ashley Olvera, who scored eight points and recorded a team-high four assists, hit two big three-point shots near the end of each half to help propel ASU to the victory. Olvera hit the first with nine seconds left in the first half to give the Red Wolves a 23-20 lead at the break, and then hit her second with 1:19 left in the game to put ASU ahead 45-41.
A layup by Kamika Idom on FIU's next possession cut A-State's lead to just 45-43, but O'Bannon converted a traditional three-point play with 22 seconds left to play to make the score 48-43. O'Bannon hit an additional free throw 11 seconds later to set the final score at 49-43, matching the largest lead of the game by either team.
The game featured nine lead changes and eight ties, but the Red Wolves were able to take the advantage for good on an O'Bannon layup with 15:16 left in the game that made the score 27-26. ASU was able to build its lead to 39-33 by the 5:42 mark, but FIU went on an 8-3 run to cut its deficit to 42-41 before Olvera hit her second big three pointer.
"Compared to our game against Western Kentucky, the number of fewer possessions we had in this game is just amazing," Boyer said. "That is a hard thing for players to get used and we are not a team that likes a game in the 40s, but sometimes you have to do that. We wanted to speed it up, but couldn't and when you can't you better buckle down and defend and I thought we did that tonight."
Joining O'Bannon in double-figures was junior forward Carlisha Wyatt with 10 points. O'Bannon and Wyatt both scored in double digits for the fifth time this year, while Wyatt narrowly missed her first double-double with a team-high nine rebounds.
FIU held a 42-30 advantage on the boards, but ASU limited the Golden Panthers to a 33.9 field goal percentage. A-State, which entered the game ranked 13th in the nation in three-point field goal percentage defense, also held FIU to 0-of-12 shooting from beyond the arc. The game marked the third time this season an ASU opponent failed to make a three-point shot.
The Red Wolves also made 12-of-19 free throws, while the Golden Panthers managed to make just 3-of-7 attempts at the charity stripe.
FIU was led by junior guard Jerica Coley with 15 points and 12 rebounds, but the ASU bench outscored FIU's 19-4.
The Red Wolves return to action Saturday with a 5 p.m. road game at Louisiana-Lafayette. They will then return to Jonesboro for a home game against ULM at 2:05 p.m. on Jan. 20.