JONESBORO, AR (astateredwolves.com) – The Arkansas State men's basketball team jumped out to a 19-point lead in the first half against UT Martin, but the Skyhawks outscored them 52-34 in the second half as the Red Wolves lost their season opener 75-73 Monday night at the Convocation Center.
A-State (0-1) built a 39-20 advantage in the first half after a Sean Gardner three-pointer with 28 seconds remaining, but Marshun Newell drained a three-pointer to set the halftime score at 39-23 in favor of the Red Wolves. Arkansas State's defense would falter in the second half as the Skyhawks (1-1) erased the deficit thanks to a 27-10 run and took a 50-49 lead after a basket from Alex Anderson with 10:33 left in the game.
The Red Wolves battled back to tie the game at 59-59 when C.J. Foster scored seven consecutive points, including an old-fashioned three-point play to tie the contest. The hosts took the lead on two free throws by Kelvin Downs with 6:47 remaining, but a 7-0 run gave the Skyhawks an advantage they wouldn't relinquish.
"It was a total meltdown in the second half defensively of not being able to guard anybody," A-State head coach John Brady said. "I don't know if I've ever been as disappointed in a group defensively in the second half as I was with this group tonight. If you can get a 19-point lead you're good enough to win the game. We're not good enough right now to hold a lead or win a close game and we just need to keep working to get better."
Anthony Livingston led all scorers with 26 points, including 19 in the first half, and fell one rebound shy of recording a double-double. Cameron Golden scored 17, while Gardner poured in 15 of his own. The Red Wolves outshot the Skyhawks 57.8 to 47.3 percent for the whole game, but UTM made 56.7 percent of its shots in the second half compared to A-State's 47.6 percent. UT Martin also scored 22 points off Red Wolves' turnovers and outscored A-State 17-2 in second chance points in the game to sway the outcome in its favor.
A-State gained an early 10-9 lead in the first half after a Livingston jumper and used a 20-6 run to earn a 30-15 advantage with four minutes remaining in the first half. Another Livingston jumper set the A-State advantage to 36-20 before Gardner's and Newell's three-pointers set the halftime score.
A-State returns to the court Tuesday, Nov. 25, as the Red Wolves host Lamar in their second straight game at the Convocation Center. A 7:05 p.m. (CT) tipoff is scheduled for the game and tickets may be purchased by calling the A-State Central Box Office at 1-888-ASU-FANS or ordering online at www.astate.edu/tickets.