Minneapolis, MN (A-State) – The Arkansas State men’s basketball cut a 17-point second half deficit to five points, but Minnesota held off a furious second half by the Red Wolves to come away with 82-75 victory at Williams Arena Friday night.
Devin Carter had a game-high 23 points while Deven Simms added 13 points and Rashad Lindsey chipped in with 11 for A-State (9-4). DuPree McBrayer led four Minnesota (12-1) players in double figures with 19 points.
“You turn the ball over 20 times, it makes it hard to win on the road and that’s what it boiled down to tonight,” said A-State head coach Grant McCasland. “We didn’t guard the ball well in the first half with penetration or fouls, whatever it may be, but I thought we were more competitive defensively in the second half allowing us to play more in transition. Any time you can play in transition, it takes pressure off of your half-court offense. Tonight was probably the worst defensive effort we’ve had this season over 40 minutes, but that’s playing on the road against a good Big Ten team. They played us in ways that will hopefully make us better in the long run.”
The Red Wolves faced a 40-26 halftime deficit that swelled to 17 points with 12:25 left. A-State refused to go away quietly as Tamas Bruce, who was making his first start, and Simms hit back-to-back layups to cut it to a 55-42 deficit with 11:43 remaining. Carter hit his 3-pointer of the night after one of his career high five steals to make it a 10-point deficit, but a foul on the other end gave the Golden Gophers a chance to snap the run.
Minnesota hit 1-of-2 free throws and converted a turnover by A-State into a transition layup to rebuild a 13-point lead, 58-45, with 10:24 left. Connor Kern, who was 3-for-3 from 3-point range on the night, converted to make it 58-48, but a foul on a dunk saw Minnesota regain the 13-point edge the next trip down the court.
Trailing 62-48 with 9:30 on the clock, the Red Wolves used an 8-1 run to get the deficit down to seven, 63-56, with 7:14 remaining. Lindsey started the run with a layup and Carter followed with the next six points. Minnesota answered with a 6-0 spurt to take a 13-point lead again, this time with 6:04 left, but A-State trimmed it to five, 69-64, with 4:21 to play.
After trading buckets, A-State trailed 71-66 with 3:23 left, but Akeem Springs drained an open 3-pointer to spark another Minnesota run that grew to 7-0 as the Golden Gophers grabbed a 78-66 lead with 1:29 left. A-State didn’t go away, forcing Minnesota to make foul shots while going to the rim. Simms drained a 3-pointer to make it an 80-71 with 18 seconds remaining, but Minnesota split free throws on consecutive fouls to keep the deficit at nine. Lindsey hit a layup with four seconds left to set the final score of 82-75.
Salif Boudie led the Red Wolves with seven rebounds, a season-best, as A-State ended the night with a 34-27 edge on the glass. A-State shot 60.6 percent (20-33) from the field, including 4-for-9 (44.4 percent) beyond the arc, and out-rebounded the Golden Gophers 19-10 in the second half.
Minnesota led for much of the first half of action, turning six A-State turnovers into 12 points in the first 10 minutes. With 8:03 left in the half, A-State trailed 18-14, but Minnesota went on a 6-0 run to help build a 14-point halftime lead. Simms, who had seven first half points, drove to the rim and was fouled before completing the and-one to make it 24-17 and Kern later followed with a triple to make it 26-20 with 5:33 left in the first half.
Minnesota responded with a 9-0 run to build a 15-point advantage, 35-20, with 2:48 left in the half, hitting their fifth trey of the half to cap the run. Despite struggling from the floor in the first half (33 percent), the Red Wolves finished the night 50 percent (27-54). Minnesota shot 53.1 percent (26-49) from the field and 50 percent (7-14) beyond the arc. The Golden Gophers shot 18 more free throws than A-State, hitting 65.7 percent (23-35) from the charity stripe. The Red Wolves were a season high 82.4 percent at the line (14-17), with Carter going 9-for-10.
A-State finished the night with 20 turnovers against 15 for the Golden Gophers. Minnesota had a 17-5 edge in points off turnovers at halftime and finished with a 33-22 advantage. A-State outscored the Golden Gophers in the paint, 38-34, and 28-23 in bench points.
“I talked to our team afterward, but we’ve got to basically wipe the slate clean,” McCasland said. “It doesn’t matter now what you did previously, it’s all about what we do moving forward. Our goal has always been one thing and we get the opportunity to step right into conference play at home on Dec. 31. We’ve got a lot to learn from this one, but I’m looking forward to getting back after Christmas and having great practices ahead of playing Louisiana.
The Red Wolves return home to open Sun Belt Conference play against Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday, Dec. 31, at 5:00 p.m.