JONESBORO, AR (ASU) – The Arkansas State men's basketball team rallied from a 24-point second-half deficit against South Alabama to tie the score with 2:49 left, but couldn't complete the comeback in an 81-76 Sun Belt Conference setback Thursday night at the Convocation Center.
"I'm trying to come up with words that make any sense about what I just experienced," A-State head coach John Brady said. "That game is a capsule of our season. Our inconsistency in how we play and what we do. I don't know how else to explain it. For us to play with no sense of urgency the first 25 minutes of the game and then all of sudden we are 24 down and then we tie the game, come on. If we had any semblance of that play the first part of the game we win by 12 or 14. It's mind boggling, every time with this team this year I think we are about to turn the corner, we take a step or two forward and then we take a step or two backwards."
The Red Wolves, who were eliminated from Sun Belt Conference Tournament contention, saw their overall record move to 11-17 and their league mark now stands at 6-13. South Alabama was able to snap a three-game skid, improving to 10-20 overall and 8-11 in conference play.
A-State was led by four players scoring in double figures, including sophomore forward Anthony Livingston with a game-high 22 points. Sean Gardner scored 21 points, marking the fifth time this season the junior guard posted at least 20 in a contest. Junior guard Cameron Golden and junior forward Kelvin Downs added 15 and 11 points, respectively, for the Red Wolves.
South Alabama took a 47-33 lead into the break and built its largest lead to 63-39 with 15:17 left in the game. Still trailing by 22 points, 66-44, at the 11:16 mark, A-State began its rally by going on a 10-0 run in just over two minutes.
The two teams followed by going back-and-forth for several minutes, but the Red Wolves began another charge with just over seven minutes remaining and down 71-58. A-State scored 15 of the next 17 points to tie the score 73-73 with 2:49 left.
However, South Alabama responded by hitting a three-point bucket on its next possession, then getting a stop on the defensive end when Livingston was called for an offensive foul, and finally hitting a layup to go back up 78-73 less than 40 seconds later.
Livingston was called for his fifth foul during the 5-0 outburst by the Jaguars, but Golden made a three with 1:13 left on the clock to make it a one-possession game again at 78-76. Golden fouled out on USA's next trip down the floor, and South Alabama made 1-of-2 free throws to go ahead 79-76.
Gardner took A-State's last shot of the night with 13 seconds left, but his three was off the mark and the Red Wolves had to foul. South Alabama's Ken Williams secured the win by making both of his shots at the charity stripe and setting the final score.
South Alabama recorded a 52.9 field goal percentage, while A-State hit 45.6 percent of its shots from the floor. The Jaguars also posted a higher three-point percentage, .333 to .167, and hit 22-of-33 free throws in comparison to A-State's 11-of-19 showing at the line.
A-State held a slight advantage on the boards (36-35), outscored ASU in the paint (40-30), posted four more points off turnovers (15-11) and scored five more second chance points (14-9).
The Red Wolves were without the services of injured junior guard Frederic Dure, who was averaging 17 points over the last three games. South Alabama was led by four players reaching double digits as well, including Dionte Ferguson with a team-high 20 points.