NEW ORLEANS, La. (3/8/17) – The Arkansas State men’s basketball team was defeated by Louisiana-Monroe 73-70 in the opening round of the Sun Belt Conference Championship tournament at Lakefront Arena Wednesday afternoon.
The Red Wolves fell to 20-12 on the season with loss and will await to see if it will receive and invitation to play in a postseason tournament. ULM improved to 9-23 overall and will play Texas State in the quarterfinal round on Friday.
A-State was led by senior Donte Thomas’ 22 points and three rebounds. Deven Simms and Tamas Bruce combined for 15 points, while Bruce added 11 rebounds to finish with a double-double. Devin Carter was also in double-figures with 10 points.
ULM had five players score in double-figures led by Nick Coppola’s 15 points and four assists. Sam Alabakis added 14 points and Marvin Jean-Pierre scored 12. Marcus Washington and Travis Munnings finished with 11 points each.
How It Happened (First Half):
The Warhawks jumped out to a 13-4 advantage to start the game, but A-State quickly cut the deficit to one after a 3-pointer by Carter. The ULM ballooned to seven with 9:28 left in the half, but a 7-0 run by Arkansas State that culminated with a 3-pointer by Rashad Lindsey tied the game at 20.
A-State took its first lead of the half on a free throw by Carter to go up 28-27 with 2:41 to go. The points came during a 12-1 run to close the half for Arkansas State that saw their lead grow to 10 after layup by Tamas Bruce to go up 37-27 with 14 seconds left in the half.
Donte Thomas led A-State with 12 points in the first half on 4-of-6 shooting. He also went 3-of-4 from the free throw line and added an assist and a rebound. Bruce was perfect from the field in the opening half and finished with 10 points on 5-of-5 shooting. He also grabbed five rebounds and had a steal.
The Red Wolves were hot from the field in the half and knocked down 63.6 percent of their shots, while ULM struggled and made shot 34.6 percent of their shots on 9-of-26 shooting. A-State also crashed the glass for 18 rebounds, including seven on the offensive end.
How It Happened (Second Half):
ULM quickly erased the Red Wolves’ halftime lead and tied the score at 37-37 just two minutes into the half, but A-State responded with a run of its own and went up 50-43 after a 3-pointer by Connor Kern and a stick back by Jahmiah Simmons with 10 minutes to go.
ULM went up 60-58 with 1:08 to go in the game when Sam Alabakis converted a layup, but Donte Thomas answered with a layup with 41 seconds left to tie the score. Thomas then stole the ball from Travis Munnings and called timeout with 13 seconds remaining to setup a wild sequence at the end of regulation.
Rashad Lindsey took a 3-pointer with two seconds on the clock that rimmed out, but Deven Simms was in position for an offensive rebound and tried to tip the ball back into the hoop, but the shot missed as well and the clock expired to send the game into overtime.
A-State shot just 31 percent from the floor in the second half and made just one of its six 3-point attempts. ULM closed the edge on the boards and grabbed 18 and improved its shooting percentage by making nearly 50 percent of the shots they took.
How It Happened (Overtime):
In the extra period the Warhawks opened on a 10-2 run to build a 70-62 advantage the team could not recover from.
Thomas and Simms scored on back-to-back possessions to get within 70-66, but Nick Coppola made 1-of-2 free throws to push the lead to five with 15 seconds to go. Simmons scored on a layup to get within 71-68 with six seconds left, but Coppola followed with two free throws to ice the game for the Warhawks.
This is such a tough time of the year especially when you know it’s the end. Going into that locker room and hugging Donte Thomas and Devin Carter is tough, just because of what they have poured into our program in the short time I have been here has been tremendous. I hate it for our team that this is the way our season ends. ULM played tremendous down the stretch, made big shots, stayed aggressive, got us on our heels and give those guys credit for playing a great game.