JONESBORO, AR (astateredwolves.com) – The Arkansas State men's basketball team picked up a thrilling 76-73 victory over Little Rock Monday night at the Convocation Center, moving it into a tie for first place in the Sun Belt Conference standings and giving head coach John Brady his 400th career win in the process.
A-State improved to 9-8 overall and is now tied with the Trojans atop the league standings with a 5-1 record. The Red Wolves snapped a five-game winning streak by Little Rock and handed the Trojans just their second loss in 17 games this season.
Four players scored in double figures to lead Arkansas State, including junior forward Anthony Livingston and junior guard Devin Carter with a game-high 20 points each. Livingston also grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds to give him seven double-doubles on the season, while junior guard Donte Thomas dished out a game-high 10 assists to register a double-figure total for the third time this year.
"I would have preferred to get win 400 Saturday, and do this again tonight," said Brady. "It is good, though. I'm tickled to death though for our players and the people that were here to support them. You want to put your players in a position where they can be successful, and enthusiastic, supportive fans is one way to do that. We played a flawless first half, both offensively and defensively. I liked that our team came back from shooting 1/18 the other night and missing 16 or 17 straight shots. I've never experienced that as a coach."
The Red Wolves built an 18-point halftime lead and then withstood two big runs by Little Rock to start and end the second half. The Trojans were able to cut their deficit to seven points, 48-41, in less than three minutes following the intermission and pulled within 56-52 with 10:59 left in the game.
However, A-State responded with a 13-0 run of its own over the next four minutes to go back up 69-52 at the 7:44 mark. Thomas started the run with a layup and senior guard Frederic Dure and Livingston contributed a combined nine points to help fuel the Red Wolves outburst. Dure finished the game with 10 points, including five in the second half that all came during the run.
Little Rock fired back with a late rally, though, taking the game down to the very last possession. The Trojans scored 14 of the game's next 16 points to cut the Red Wolves lead to 71-66 with almost four minutes left to play, and they were able to make it a one-possession game when Josh Hagins hit a jumper that moved the score to 73-70 with 2:33 left.
Thomas made 1-of-2 shots at the charity stripe A-State's next trip down the court, but Little Rock made three free throws over its next two possessions to cut the Red Wolves' lead down to 74-73 with 1:16 remaining. Livingston stepped up with a big jump shot 25 second later to set the final score, although the game wasn't secured until Little Rock's Marcus Johnson Jr. missed a three-point shot as time expired.
The Red Wolves posted a blistering 62.1 field goal percentage in the first half and ended the game with a 27-of-54 shooting performance against the nation's No. 1 ranked team in field goal percentage defense. A-State has now scored at least 68 points in 17 consecutive games for the first time since the 1966-67 season, and the Red Wolves' 76 points tonight were the most allowed by Little Rock all season.
Little Rock was able to improve its field goal percentage in the second half to .355, but still finished with a .328 mark. The Trojans kept the game within reach in part due to making 25-of-30 free throws in comparison to A-State's 15-of-27 shooting performance at the line. Little Rock also held a slight advantage on the boards and finished with nine turnovers to the Red Wolves' 18.
The game's first 10 minutes never saw either team take more than a three-point lead while featuring five lead changes and two ties. Holding just a 16-15 advantage with 10:31 left before the break, Arkansas State went on a 10-0 run over a three-minute stretch to grab its first double-figure lead. A-State ended the half by scoring 15 of the last 21 points to build a 48-30 advantage.
Also scoring in double figures for the Red Wolves was senior forward Nouhoum Bocoum, who scored 11 points. The game marked the fifth time this season he posted at least 10 points.
A-State returns to action Thursday, Jan. 21, with a 7:15 p.m. road game at UT Arlington.