JONESBORO, Ark. (AStateRedWolves.com) – The streak is over for the Arkansas State University men's basketball team as the Red Wolves lost a 66-64 home decision to FIU in Sun Belt Conference (SBC) action this Thursday (Jan. 10) at the ASU Convocation Center in Jonesboro, Ark.
ASU, who were winners of its last four contests, came up against a resilient FIU team which made key plays down the stretch. The most important one occurred with 21.5 seconds left as senior guard Trey Finn intercepted a FIU pass in the forecourt, but his basket was negated as a result of being whistled for a player control foul. Finn's potential bucket would have tied the contest after Red Wolves had scored five straight to pull within 64-62 on a three-pointer by junior guard Ed Townsel with 25.4 ticks left on the clock. The Panthers withstood the rally by hitting a pair of free throws in the final seconds to secure the victory as ASU falls to 10-6 overall and 4-3 in the SBC's West Division.
"I was proud of our team and the effort they gave," said ASU head coach John Brady. "The call was a game changer and I give credit to our team for fighting back and making plays but we didn't get the whistle. If we would've made some plays earlier in the game it would have been a non factor.
"You have to give FIU credit as they did some good things and made some shots. We weren't quite as good defensively as we needed to be and there were moments tonight when you have to make a play or two, unfortunately we weren't able to," added Brady.
FIU, which improved to 7-7 and 3-3 in the SBC's East Division, trailed 55-59 with 5:39 remaining in the contest after freshman forward Kelvin Downs hit a lay-up for the Red Wolves. However, the Panthers would go on a 17-9 run from there on out. ASU's last lead of the contest occurred at the four-minute mark as the Red Wolves held a slim 55-53 margin before FIU tallied eight unanswered points to go up by six at 66-51 with just under two minutes to be played.
The opening half saw ASU score 11 of the contest's first 15 points as the Red Wolves would proceed to hold the upper hand for the first 10-plus minutes. FIU came back by applying full-court pressure throughout the majority of the half and the Panthers' strategy paid off as the visitors not only erased the deficit but managed to claim a lead for the first time in the game at 21-20 with 9:26 left. FIU proceeded to increase its margin by eight points twice with less than two minutes remaining before the Red Wolves reeled off five consecutive points to end the half trailing by three at 36-33. Trey Finn, who led ASU with eight points at the break, concluded the first 20 minutes of action by nailing a three ball from the right wing extended justbefore the buzzer.
For Arkansas State, Ed Townsel's 20 points led all players in the game while Trey Finn provided 13 points. Senior forward Brandon Peterson added nine points. The Red Wolves shot only 34.5% (20-58) from the field and put up a season-high 33 three-point attempts but connected on just eight for 24.2%. Trey Finn's game-best eight rebounds was tops for ASU, which claimed a 39-27 advantage on the boards with 19 coming on the offensive end.
FIU placed four of its five starters in double figures as Jerome Fink and Tymell Murphy both claimed 12 points. Deric Hill tossed in 11 points and Malik Smith, who had three treys,finished up with 10 points as the Panthers swept the two-game regular-season series between the teams.
"We put this game behind us and gather ourselves," Brady stated. "We need to bounce back and play better our next game to get this one back. Our team needs to pick one (victory) up on the road and hopefully we will do that this Saturday night."
ASU will go on the road for the first time in 2013 as the Red Wolves visit the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns this Saturday (Jan. 12) evening in Lafayette, La. Tip off is at 7:15 p.m. (CT) in ULL's Cajundome for the SBC West Division matchup. The game can be heard live on the EAB Sports Radio Network via flagship station 107.9 KFIN-FM as Matt Stolz will call the action.