Boone, NC (A-State) – Arkansas State men’s basketball saw its season come to a close with an 80-73 setback at Appalachian State on Saturday.
A-State finishes the 2015-16 campaign with an 11-20 record and 7-13 mark in Sun Belt Conference play. Appalachian State improved to 9-22 overall and 7-13 in conference play.
Five players scored in double figures for the Red Wolves led by 12 points each from Anthony Livingston and Devin Carter. Nouhoum Bocoum posted his third career double-double, first of the season, with 11 points and a game-high 10 rebounds. Griffin Kinney paced the Mountaineers with 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting.
“We found a way to lose rather than finding a way to win,” said A-State head coach John Brady. “We didn’t get on the floor and battle for loose balls and we didn’t block out on free throws. We didn’t shoot the ball very well from three and we couldn’t find our way to the basket. We are where we are because we didn’t do the small things. The effort was there, but we didn’t have the proper execution.”
The Red Wolves held a 68-66 advantage with 4:03 remaining as Bocoum split a pair of free throws, but Appalachian State outscored A-State 14-5 in the final four minutes to set the final score of 80-73. Frank Eaves, who posted 31 points in the contest earlier this year in Jonesboro, had 12 points on the night, but none bigger than a three-pointer with 42 seconds remaining that gave his team a 77-71 lead.
Livingston, who scored all 12 of his points in the second half, answered with a jumper on the other end, but that proved to be the final points for A-State. The Red Wolves fouled Jake Babic and he split a pair of free throws to put A-State down 78-73 with 35 seconds left. Frederic Dure had a good look at a three-pointer, but the shot rimmed off and Kinney hit two free throws after he was fouled to make it 80-73 in the final seconds.
With Appalachian State leading 72-71, Donte Thomas picked the pocket of Ronshad Shabazz with 1:44 left. Thomas quickly tried to convert on the fast break opportunity, but he was whistled for a traveling violation. Appalachian State converted the turnover into a layup by Kinney and A-State trailed 74-71 with 1:20 left and called timeout after bringing the ball into the front court. Carter received the ball at the top of the key out of the timeout, but was whistled for an offensive foul as he made a move to the basket. The turnover proved costly as it set up the Mountaineers and Eaves for the big three-pointer.
The second half featured four lead changes with the two teams not being separated by more than six points until the final seconds. Appalachian State built a six-point advantage, 56-50, with 12:27 to play, but the Red Wolves didn’t go quietly. A-State answered with a 12-2 run to lead 62-58 with 7:14 to play. During the run, Livingston scored six of his 12 second-half points.
The first half featured each team using big runs to grab large leads, but it was Appalachian State closing the period on a 15-4 run to lead 42-41 at the halftime break. The Red Wolves built a 37-27 lead on the heels of strong first half free throw shooting, but the Mountaineers hit each of their last four shots from the field to grab the halftime lead.
A-State scored the first bucket of the game, but Appalachian State built an 11-4 advantage over the first three minutes. After the two sides traded buckets, the Red Wolves used a 13-0 run over 2:52 to lead the hosts 19-13 with 12:14 left in the half.
Appalachian State ended the night shooting 43.5 percent (27-62) from the field compared to 41.8 percent (23-55) for the Red Wolves. The Mountaineers hit six treys (6-20/30 percent) while A-State struggled to 15.4 percent (2-13) beyond the arc. Free throws were a big turning point in the game as the Red Wolves knocked down 16-of-18 (88.9 percent) in the first half, but only 9-of-13 (69.2 percent) in the second half. Appalachian State was 6-for-12 (50 percent) in the first half, but improved to 73.7 percent (14-19) in the second half, including hitting on 5-of-6 in the final four minutes. A-State finished with a 40-36 edge on the glass, but lost the turnover battle 17-11.
Brady, who announced earlier this season that he would be stepping down as A-State’s head coach at the end of the season, finishes his eight-year tenure at A-State with 121 wins. This season saw Brady capture his 400th career victory, a 76-73 win over Little Rock, to become the 34th active NCAA Division I coach to reach the Final Four and collect 400 career wins, all at the Division I level. A-State is conducting an on-going search for its next head men’s basketball coach.
“It hurts me to the core that we aren’t continuing to play,” added Brady. “Early on, we were good enough, but we weren’t able to get it back together. Our effort was always there and our team never quit. We just couldn’t find a way to win the game. There was no message to the team after the game about me. There’s no need for that, because it’s not about me. It’s about the players. I didn’t want to end it talking about me. They know I appreciate what they did.”