JONESBORO, AR (astateredwolves.com) – The Arkansas State University men’s basketball team overcame a 20-0 run by UL Lafayette and improved to 4-0 in Sun Belt Conference play with a 71-69 victory Saturday at the Convocation Center.
Junior guard Devin Carter led the Red Wolves with 25 points and eight rebounds while junior guard Donte Thomas tied tallied 20 points. Sean Gardner finished with 13 points, including the game-winning basket.
“What our team showed Thursday night, down six with a little over four minutes to go against ULM and win it in overtime, and then tonight down 13 with eight minutes to go and to come back and win this game shows a lot of character and toughness and resiliency,” said A-State head coach John Brady. “We’ve developed some of the intangibles that flow through good teams. Everything that could have gone against us to start the second half did. We had pretty good shots, so, at timeouts we just told the team keep doing what you’re doing.”
Trailing the Ragin’ Cajuns 69-68 with 14 seconds left, Carter was fouled and went to the charity stripe for the potential game-tying and game-winning free throws. Carter missed both free throws, but senior guard Frederic Dure snagged the offensive rebound. The Red Wolves reversed the ball and found Gardner on the right side and he drove to the rim.
Gardner was fouled on the play, but muscled in the layup to give A-State a 70-69 lead with an attempt to complete a three-point play. Gardner hit his free throw and a desperation 3-point attempt by Shawn Long rimmed off sealing the victory for the Red Wolves.
The win improves A-State to 8-7 on the season and remains atop the Sun Belt standings with Little Rock and UT Arlington. The win marked the fifth-straight for the Red Wolves, the longest win streak since a six-game streak in the 2008-09 season. The loss dropped UL Lafayette to 5-8 on the season and 1-3 in league play.
With a 3-pointer to close the first half and the first 17 points of the second half, the Ragin’ Cajuns turned in a 20-0 run to lead the Red Wolves 51-38 with 12:41 remaining while A-State went the first 8:02 of the second half without a point.
Over the next four minutes, A-State used a 15-6 run to cut the deficit to three, 56-53, with 8:09 remaining. Thomas was fouled on a layup and hit the free throw for the three-point play, but the Red Wolves couldn’t get the game tied until 4:11 remained on the clock.
The Ragin’ Cajuns led 64-57 with 5:37 remaining, but a 7-0 run tied the game at 64-all. Carter scored all seven points in the run, while logging a rebound and steal on the defensive end.
Neither team was able to snag a lead of more than one over the next two minutes, until Gardner’s three-point play with eight seconds remaining. Long, who finished with 25 points and 15 rebounds to lead the Ragin’ Cajuns, missed the front end of a two-shot foul with 34 seconds remaining and the scored tied at 68-all.
The Red Wolves scored the first bucket of the game, but trailed for much of the first half as the Ragin’ Cajuns built a 13-8 lead in the first four minutes. It took A-State 11 minutes to knot the game at 27-27 as the Red Wolves used a 17-6 run near the end of the first half to grab a 38-31 advantage with five seconds left.
Thomas drove to the rim, laid in a layup and was fouled for the and-1 to give A-State the 38-31 lead, but a trey at the buzzer by Hayward Register set the halftime score of 38-34. The Red Wolves opened the game 1-for-8 from the field, but after a sluggish start finished the half shooting 14-for-32 (43.8 percent) while the Ragin’ Cajuns were 13-for-32 (40.6 percent) from the floor.
After opening the second half 0-for-15 from the floor, the Red Wolves hit 11-of-15 from the floor, including 2-for-3 from 3-point range, to outscore the Ragin’ Cajuns 32-18. The Red Wolves were 0-for-15 to being the second half, but over the final 11:30 of the second half, A-State was 11-for-15 (73.3 percent). For the game, A-State finished 40.3 percent (25-for-62) while the Ragin’ Cajuns were 39.4 percent (26-for-66).
The Red Wolves were out-rebounded 44-38 on the game and the Ragin’ Cajuns won the battle in the paint 38-36, but A-State owned a 18-12 edge at the charity stripe. The Red Wolves drained 18-of-24 (75.0 percent) of their shots at the line while UL Lafayette was 12-for-17 (70.6 percent).
A-State continues a four-game homestand against Appalachian State on Saturday, Jan. 16 at the Convocation Center. Tipoff is 7 p.m. and the game can be seen on ESPN3.