JONESBORO, AR (astateredwolves.com) – Led by three players scoring in double figures and a strong defensive effort, the Arkansas State men’s basketball team erased a six-point halftime deficit to collect a 78-69 victory over Jackson State Sunday afternoon at the Convocation Center.
The Red Wolves improved their overall record to 2-2 and have now won their first two home games for the 20th time during their 29 seasons playing at the Convocation Center. A-State picked up its fifth straight win over Jackson State dating back to the 1999 season, handing the Tigers their third loss over their first four contests of the year.
Senior guard Sean Gardner and junior guard Donte Thomas both scored a team-high 21 points to pace the Red Wolves’ offensive attack, while junior forward Anthony Livingston picked up his third double-double with 15 points and a season-high 14 rebounds. In addition to scoring a season-best 21 points, Thomas approached a triple-double with eight rebounds and a season-high seven assists.
“It was a good win for us, particularly how the game went,” said A-State head coach John Brady. “When we started well offensively, we got a false impression of ourselves and we go through a lull an don’t guard, and they take a 10 point lead. For some reason we start defending a little bit better and we’re more accurate. We did go small and put four guards out around Anthony and we held them to 28 points in the second half. If we’re scoring 75 points a game, for a team like mine, that’s good. We just got to defend. If we would have done that during the two games on the road, we had opportunities to win both of those.
Despite trailing by as many as 15 points in the first half, Jackson State surged to a 41-35 halftime advantage and outscored A-State 8-4 to start the second half and take a 49-39 lead – it’s largest of the game. The Red Wolves, however, responded with a 13-3 run to tie the game at 52-52 with 10:38 remaining.
With the scored still tied 57-57, Arkansas State put together an 8-0 run to take their first lead of the second half and claim a 65-57 edge with 4:45 left in the game. A-State was able to extend its lead to as much as 15 points, 76-61, on its way to the nine-point victory.
Thomas and Gardner both scored 13 of their 21 points in the second half, and A-State’s defense came up big as well. Ranked 49th in the nation in field goal percentage defense entering today’s game, the Red Wolves limited JSU to a .308 shooting percentage in the second half after watching the Tigers shoot .378 in the first.
A-State also outrebounded JSU 23-20 in the second half to end the game with a 45-44 advantage on the boards. A-State recorded 14 assists, tying their season high, and tallied a season-best eight blocks, led by senior forward Charles Waters with a career-high four. The Red Wolves’ eight blocks were their most since posting eight against UALR during the 2013-14 season as well.
A-State raced out to a 19-4 lead seven minutes into the contest and held a nine-point advantage with 8:15 left in the first half, but Jackson State went on a 20-6 run over the next five minutes to take its first lead of the game at 36-31.
Coming off the bench, redshirt freshman guard Connor Kern scored a career-high eight points to help lead the Red Wolves to the win. Although junior guard Devin Carter was held 10 points below his season scoring average, he ended the game with a season-high seven rebounds.
Jackson State was also led by three players scoring in double figures, including Kaven Bernard with a game-high 25 points and Chace Franklin with 21.
Arkansas State returns to action Wednesday, Nov. 25, with a 6 p.m. (CT) game at Oregon. The contest is being played as part of the Global Sports Shootout and is set to be televised by the Pac-12 Networks.