Little Rock, AR (A-State) – The Arkansas State men’s basketball team overcame a 14-point deficit and rallied past Little Rock for a 77-72 victory Saturday night at the Jack Stephens Center.
A-State earned a win in Little Rock for the first time since the 2011 season and improves to 12-6 overall and 3-2 in league play. The Trojans fall to 11-7 overall and 2-3 in conference play.
Devin Carter and Deven Simms combined for 50 points to help the Red Wolves to the win. Carter poured in 28 points while Simms finished with a career high 22 points, 17 of which came in the second half. Little Rock had five players finish in double figures, led by March Johnson Jr who had 15 points off the bench.
A-State finished the night shooting 48.9 percent (23-47), including 52 percent (13-25) in the second half. The Red Wolves shot 81.3 percent (26-32) at the charity stripe after entering the game at 63.5 percent. After shooting 63.0 percent (17-27) in the first half, A-State held the Trojans to 38.1 percent (8-21) in the second half. Little Rock finished 52.1 percent (25-48) on the night and 19-of-24 (79.2 percent) at the charity stripe. Little Rock hit just 3-of-12 (25 percent) beyond the arc compared to 5-of-15 (33.3 percent) for the Red Wolves.
How It Happened (First Half):
Little Rock shot 63 percent (17-27) from the floor as A-State allowed a season high of 43 first half points and trailed 43-31. The Trojans got 22 of the 43 points in the paint, hitting two 3-pointers late in the half to extend the lead. Little Rock was 2-for-7 (28.6 percent) beyond the arc and 7-for-8 (87.5 percent) at the charity stripe.
Carter scored 14 points in the first half on 5-of-8 (62.5 percent) shooting, but the rest of the team accounted for 5-for-14 (35.7 percent) with nine turnovers. Carter had scored 10 points over his last two games, but came out firing scoring the first four points for the Red Wolves.
How It Happened (Second Half):
The Red Wolves opened the second half on an 11-3 run with Carter scoring eight of those 11 points, trimming the deficit to four, 46-42, with 17:07 left. The run extended to 16-5 to open the second half, cutting the deficit to one, but Little Rock responded with a 6-0 run to regain a seven point advantage.
Deven Simms converted an and-one with 4:14 remaining to tie the game and then give the Red Wolves their first lead of the night at 69-68. Little Rock hit a pair of free throws to regain the lead but an old-fashioned three-point play by Thomas built a two-point advantage for A-State, 72-70, with 3:22 left.
The Red Wolves called timeout with two seconds on the shot clock and 1:11 left in the game with the two point lead. Simms got the ball near the elbow and took one dribble followed with a pump fake and finished with a layup to give the Red Wolves the 74-70 lead.
A-State hit 3-of-4 free throws in the final 20 seconds to ice the game, finishing with a 77-72 lead, the largest on the night.
Devin Carter posted 20 or more points for the eighth time this season and 23 time for his career. This is 12th 20-plus point performance in a Sun Belt game.
Deven Simms had a career high 22 points, going a career best 9-for-10 at the charity stripe. Simms completed two old-fashioned three-point plays on the night, the fifth and sixth for him this season.
A-State forced 11 turnovers in the second half and converted those into 20 points. The Red Wolves ended the game with a 23-17 edge in points off turnovers after Little Rock led that category 13-3 at halftime.
The Red Wolves picked up their first win this season when trailing at halftime or at the 5:00 mark of the second half. A-State entered the night 0-5 when trailing at halftime or with 5:00 left.
Quoting Coach McCasland:
“Our team played on the road the last couple of games about like the way we played in the first half tonight. At halftime, one of our guys that doesn’t play very much, Andrew Riley, basically challenged our whole squad to do a much better job defensively. We’ve had a lot of team meetings the last few days about things that are not necessarily happening on the basketball court, but learning how to win and be a great teammate. I couldn’t be more proud of how we responded in the second half. It says a lot about the toughness of this group and how hard they work. I thought we got this win based off what we did in the second half defensively.
Devin Carter showed his will to win tonight. He had a shot in the corner with a couple minutes left that went in and out and that could’ve been a time for him to hang his head. He sprinted back, picked up a loose ball and we end up getting an and-one on the other end. That hustle play from a guy like Devin Carter summed up how we won the game.
Great win and great crowd for us. It was great to have so many A-State fans here and it was a great crowd for Little Rock too. I thought (Coach) Wes (Flanigan) did a great job with a short-handed team and they really put us on our heels early. We were fortunate to get out of here with a win.”
Arkansas State returns to the Convocation Center to face Troy on Saturday at 7 p.m. on ESPN3.