Gardner, Defense Lead A-State to 69-55 Win Over Mississippi State
STARKVILLE, MS (ASU) – Sean Gardner scored 22 points and the A-State defense held Mississippi State to a 32.3 shooting percentage from the field as the Arkansas State men's basketball squad defeated the Bulldogs 69-55 at Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville, Miss., Wednesday night for its first win over a Southeastern Conference program since the 2004-05 season.
The win improves Arkansas State to 3-4 overall on the young season and was the first win over a SEC team since its home victory over Ole Miss 70-68 on Dec. 1, 2004. It was A-State's first win on the road against a team from the SEC since a 74-69 at Ole Miss on Nov. 24, 2003 and the Red Wolves' first win over Mississippi State since the 1955-56 season.
Gardner scored 14 of his 22 points in the second half and hit four three-pointers to help seal the victory for the Red Wolves. He finished 8-14 from the field and hit 5-10 from beyond the arc, while Cameron Golden (15) and Nouhoum Bocoum (13) also ended the game in double figures. Bocoum grabbed a game-high eight rebounds and PJ Hardwick dished out a game-high seven of the team's 13 assists.
A-State held the Bulldogs (5-4) to 21-65 from the field, including a 3-17 (17.6 percent) mark from three-point range. The Red Wolves finished with 39 rebounds to MSU's 33 and the A-State starters outscored the Bulldogs' by a count of 65-15. Roquez Johnson led Mississippi State with 20 points off the bench, as the Bulldogs outscored A-State's bench 40-4.
“We're getting better and it's just a good win for us to come into an SEC team's place,” A-State head coach John Brady said. “We really executed well for the most part and I thought Cameron Golden and Sean Gardner made some big baskets for us. Nohoum Bocoum is playing better also and we held our own on the boards. I'm really proud of our players and how they were able to play tonight.”
A-State raced out to a 12-point advantage (46-34) after a Gardner's second shot from three-point territory early in the second half, but the Bulldogs cut the deficit to eight 46-38 on a Johnson jumper. However, Gardner connected on a three-pointer the next possession to put the Red Wolves up by 11. Mississippi State was able to get within seven on an I.J. Ready three-pointer at 51-44, but the Bulldogs never got closer.
Two free throws by Bocoum and a Golden layup after a steal extended A-State's lead back to 11 at 55-44 with just under eight minutes remaining. Gardner's final three of the evening put A-State up 60-48 a minute later, but Mississippi State was able to get within single digits at 64-55 with just under three minutes left in the contest. However, the Bulldogs wouldn't score again and Hardwick connected on five free throws to set the final score of 69-55.
“We're just learning how to play with each other and we have a lot of offensive weapons, it just happened to be my night,” Gardner said. “My teammates helped me get open because they draw a lot of attention to themselves so it allows them to skip it to me for a wide-open shot.”
A-State opened the game on a 12-4 run with Golden and Bocoum providing all 12 points, but an 11-0 Mississippi State run put the score at 15-12 early. The Red Wolves battled back to take a 22-21 edge on a Gardner three-pointer with 8:40 remaining in the first period and wouldn't surrender the advantage the rest of the half. A-State finished the half on a 16-6 run and took a 35-27 lead into the locker room.
The Red Wolves shot an even 50 percent (14-28) in the half and outrebounded the Bulldogs 21-18. A-State also hit four three-pointers to Mississippi State's one. Golden led the Red Wolves at the half with 11 points and was 3-5 from beyond the arc.
Arkansas State returns to action Saturday, Dec. 20 in its final home non-conference game of the season against Marshall. The contest is scheduled to start at 2 p.m. and fans can follow the action on live stats at www.AStateStats.com or on Twitter by following @AStateGameDay. For the latest news and updates on A-State men's basketball, follow the Red Wolves on Twitter (@AStateMB) and head coach John Brady (@JohnBrady_Coach).