JONESBORO, Ark. (11/13/17) – Making its regular-season home debut under first-year head coach Mike Balado, the Arkansas State men’s basketball team saw four players score in double figures as it claimed an 83-69 victory over Abilene Christian Monday night at First National Bank Arena.
The Red Wolves evened their record to 1-1, winning their home opener for the third consecutive year to bring their all-time record in such games at First National Bank Arena to 25-6. ACU, which also had four players score in double digits, saw its record move to 1-1 as well.
Senior guard Deven Simms came off the bench to score a game-high 22 points, while junior guard Ty Cockfield added 18 and senior forward Tamas Bruce and junior guard Grantham Gillard each finished with 13.
The Red Wolves posted a final shooting percentage of 56 percent to the Wildcats .510 percentage. A-State also claimed a 33-21 advantage on the boards and made 50 percent of its three pointers (7-of-14). ACU was limited to just a 17.6 three-point percentage, making 3-of-17 attempts.
Bruce was responsible for a team-high eight rebounds and Simms followed with seven. Abilene Christian was led by guard Jaylen Franklin with 16 points, while Jaren Lewis added 15, Tevin Foster 14 and Hayden Howell 11.
How It Happened (First Half):
A-State, which trailed only once by a 2-0 margin at the start of the game, shot 56 percent in the first half and was able to build a double-figure advantage at 16-6 eight minutes into the contest. Leading 8-6 at the 15:53 mark, the Red Wolves went on a 24-9 run over the next 10 minutes to take their largest advantage of the half at 32-15.
ACU was able to cut its deficit back to nine points with 2:14 remaining before halftime, but A-State scored eight of the last nine to make the score 40-25 at the break.
A-State shot 56 percent for both the first and second half, while limiting ACU to a .333 percentage over the opening 20 minutes of action. Simms scored 15 of his 22 points to fuel A-State’s first-half performance, which also saw the squad out-rebound the Wildcats 21-10.
How It Happened (Second Half):
ACU, which shot 68 percent in the second half, made eight of its first 10 field goal attempts coming out of the locker room as it was able to pull within 49-44 with 13:10 remaining. Still leading by just six points less than a minute later, Arkansas State went on a 9-0 run that included five points from Simms and four by Bruce to push its advantage back to 15 at the 9:01 mark.
ACU wasn’t able to get closer than 10 the rest of the way, while A-State’s lead swelled to as much as 20 points on two different occasions.
Quoting Coach Balado:
“It was obviously a great win and I’m extremely excited for our guys because we played hard the whole game. In the second half, Abilene Christian made some adjustments that we didn’t do well fixing defensively. Overall, they were 17 percent from three and we fouled a lot less than we did against Evansville. I thought we had a great team win. Deven Simms was finally back healthy and I thought yesterday was the first day he was himself in practice, so I knew he would play well. Ty Cockfield was great down the stretch and had two assists on back-to-back 3-pointers that were important for us. I wish our assist total was better, but defensively we had 35 deflections and that’s what allowed us to get ahead at halftime and keep that lead going into the end of the game.”
A-State returns to action Thursday, Nov. 16, with a 6:00 p.m. game at Eastern Michigan on ESPN3. The Red Wolves next home game is set for Monday, Nov. 20, against Howard.