A-State women erase deficit for conference victory

ARLINGTON, TX  (ASU) — The Arkansas State women's basketball erased a 10-point second half deficit and then held on as UT Arlington missed a 3-pointer in the game's final seconds to give the Red Wolves a 66-62 victory over the Mavericks in the Sun Belt Conference opener for both teams Thursday night at the College Park Center.

A-State (7-6, 1-0 Sun Belt) had a 64-60 lead with 54 second remaining, but sophomore Aundrea Gamble missed the front end of a 1-and-1 free throw opportunity, and the Mavericks (1-11, 0-1) converted by scoring on a layup from Brianna Walker to cut the lead to two points with 22 seconds to play.

Hanna Qedan then missed the front of another 1-and-1 opportunity but Jalen O'Bannon hauled in the rebound and was fouled, but the sophomore also failed to hit her free throw attempt and UT Arlington controlled the rebound with 15 seconds to play.

The Mavericks got a good look at the basket as Laila Suleiman took a 3-pointer with five seconds to go, but the shot clanked off the rim and Jane Morrill controlled the rebound and was fouled with 0.2 seconds to play. The senior made both free throws to set the final as UT Arlington failed to get a shot off before time expired.

"There was a lot about this games I was not pleased with, but in the final 10 minutes we had a different look," A-State head coach Brian Boyer said. "We've shown that ability all year long I just wish it didn't have to get to that point as often as it has."

A-State trailed 52-42 with 11:02 remaining in the game after taking a one point lead into the halftime break. Gamble was held scoreless for the game's first 29 minutes, but scored eight points in the final 11 minutes and gave Arkansas State the spark it needed to complete the comeback.

The McKinney, Texas native scored back-to-back baskets to cut the lead to eight points and then made a no look pass to O'Bannon that brought the margin to 52-46 with 10:18 to go.

A-State tied the game at 54-54 with 5:53 left when Brittney Gill got a steal, missed the initial layup but got her own rebound and scored on the putback. The Red Wolves took the lead for good when Qedan scored on a layup after Gamble made a steal and passed it ahead to the redshirt junior for the easy score to put A-State up 60-58 with 2:52 to go.

It was the first time that the Red Wolves had led in the game since the 18:44 mark of the second half when it held a 36-35 advantage.

Arkansas State started the game wreaking havoc on the Mavericks' offense, forcing four turnovers which led to six straight points to start the contest. A-State scored the game's first eight points and held UTA scoreless for the first five minutes. The Mavericks finally hit a 3-pointer at 15:07, which ignited the team brought them back into the game.

From that point, the momentum belonged to the Mavericks despite the fact that the Red Wolves led for most of the first half. Morrill knocked down a 3-pointer with 11:00 to go in the frame to push the lead to 17-10, but UTA fought made it a 1-point contest (19-18) under nine minutes remaining in the half.

The Mavericks took their first lead of the game at the 2:49  mark and pushed the advantage to 33-30, but A-State came back with a basket from Jamie Ruffins and Qedan gave the Red Wolves the lead back with a free throw for the half's final points.

Morrill started the game hot, knocking down her first six shots, including a 3-pointer. She finished the half with 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting and three rebounds and was the only player to reach double figures in the half for either team.

"This was the all-conference Jane tonight," Boyer said. "That is the one thing that I continue to like about our team is the fact that some nights it has been someone different and tonight it had to be Jane and she was great for us."

O'Bannon also played a major role in the Red Wolves' second half comeback, scoring eight points and grabbing four rebounds in the period. Brittney Gill also played well defensively, as she and the other guards held Suleimann scoreless in the second half after she scored eight points in the first half.

Morrill finished the game with 21 points, a season-high eight rebounds and tied a career-high with five steals, while O'Bannon had 13 points and six rebounds on the night. Qedan had 11 points and five rebounds while Gamble scored 11 points and dished out a career-high seven assists.

The win moved A-State to 17-15 in conference openers and 12-11 in SBC opening games.

A-State will continue its Texas swing with a Sun Belt Conference game Jan. 4 against newcomer Texas State and live audio of the game can be heard at AStateRedWolves.com. For in-game updates follow @AStateGameDay on Twitter and stay up to date with A-State women's basketball team by following them on Twitter (@AStateWB), Instagram (AStateWBB) and Facebook (Facebook.com/RedWolvesWBB).