JONESBORO, AR (astateredwolves.com) – The Arkansas State men's basketball team dropped a hard-fought 71-66 decision against Georgia Southern Saturday night at the Convocation in a Sun Belt Conference game that featured 11 ties and 13 lead changes.
The Red Wolves battled back from seven down midway through the second half to take a 63-61 lead with 3:23 remaining, but Tookie Brown hit a timely three with 1:09 left to break the game's 11th tie and propel the Eagles to the win.
A-State saw its overall record move to 10-11 and now stands tied with Louisiana-Monroe for third place in the Sun Belt standings, holding a 6-4 league mark. Georgia Southern improved to 8-12 overall and 4-6 in conference action.
Senior guard Sean Gardner scored 20 points and grabbed a season-high seven rebounds to lead the Red Wolves, who saw their home record this season move to 8-3. Junior forward Anthony Livingston and junior guard Devin Carter added 16 and 12 points, respectively, for A-State.
"Sometimes you're fortunate to win, and sometime you're unfortunate to lose and this is one of those cases," said A-State head coach John Brady. "We made no mistakes defensively, but they made two incredible shots that I would want them to shoot. I can't explain how it happened. It's almost like it's meant to be. Good for them, not good for us. I thought our team played hard. We're a hurt team and not at full strength, but we're battling as best we can. I don't fault our effort or what we tried to do."
Gardner scored 18 of his 20 points in the first half to help A-State build a 37-35 lead at the intermission, but the Eagles were able to take a 58-51 lead with 8:40 left in the contest. The Red Wolves responded with a 12-3 run over the next six minutes to pull back ahead 63-61.
However, with the score knotted 66-66, Tookie Brown hit a fade away three as the shot clock expired to put the Eagles on top for good with 1:09 left in the contest. The Red Wolves were unable to hit a three that would have tied the game with 16 seconds remaining, and Georgia Southern hit a pair of free throws with seven seconds left to set the final score.
A-State saw its shooting percentage drop from 50 percent in the first half to 29.2 in the second, while the Eagles saw theirs rise from 41.2 to 48.1. While Gardner was limited to two points and Carter held scoreless in the second half, Livingston posted all his points over the final 20 minutes to help make up the difference.
The Red Wolves finished with a .396 field goal percentage in comparison to the Eagles' .443. A-State took 13 fewer shots than Georgia Southern, but was able to make 19-of-24 free throws while the Eagles were 6-of-8 at the line.
Georgia Southern was led by three players scoring in double figures, including Mike Hughes with a game-high 21 points. Brown finished with 17 and Ike Smith with 11.