Little Rock, AR (A-State) – Grantham Gillard had career highs of 23 points and 11 rebounds for his first career double-double as the Arkansas State men’s basketball earned a 70-62 road win at rival Little Rock Saturday inside the Jack Stephens Center.
The win gave A-State (7-13, 2-5) back-to-back road wins in the series against Little Rock (5-15, 2-5) for the first time since wins in 2006 and 2007. Ty Cockfield and Deven Simms joined Gillard in double figures with 11 points each. Andre Jones and Camron Reedus led the Trojans with 11 points each.
A-State drained a season-best 13 3-pointers on the night finishing 57 percent (13-23) beyond the arc. The Red Wolves shot 51 percent from the field (24-47) to overcome shooting 45 percent (9-20) at the charity stripe. Little Rock hit 44 percent from the field (24-55) from the field, but after hitting its first four triples, struggled to 29 percent (5-17) from 3-point range.
Led by Gillard’s 23 points, the A-State bench was responsible for 44 of the 70 points on the night. A-State held a 33-30 edge on the glass, but held an 8-3 advantage in second chance points.
How It Happened (First Half):
Little Rock scored the first four points, but A-State answered with the next five to take a lead. The Trojans, who started 4-of-4 from 3-point range, followed with a 15-1 run to lead 19-6 with 11:05 to play in the half. Connor Kern ended the Red Wolves seven minute drought without a field goal with back-to-back 3-pointers to spark a major run for A-State.
The two 3-pointers by Kern were the first of seven over the final 10 minutes of the first frame as A-State closed the half hitting 7-of-8 beyond the arc. The 3-point barrage helped A-State to a 19-4 run and 26-9 overall to lead 35-28 at the break. Gillard hit four-straight 3-pointers on his way to 16 points in the half. Gillard not only led A-State in scoring, he pulled in six rebounds to pace the team.
Despite starting 2-of-9 from the field, A-State shot 48 percent (11-23) in the first 20 minutes, hitting 8-of-13 (62 percent) from 3-point range. The Trojans shot 35 percent (10-29) from the field and 50 percent (5-10) beyond the arc. A-State saw 27 of its 35 first half points come from the bench.
How It Happened (Second Half):
Little Rock opened the second half on a 10-2 run to erase the Red Wolves halftime advantage. The Trojans were unable to build a lead larger than one and a 7-0 run with 12:00 left saw A-State take control with a 45-39 advantage.
A-State increased the advantage to nine on a couple of occasions, but Little Rock refused to go away quietly. The Red Wolves got the needed buckets down the stretch on the offensive end, including a key Marquis Eaton 3-pointer with 3:38 to go. Eaton’s triple secured the victory as the Trojans were unable to overcome the 63-57 advantage that A-State held.
The Red Wolves hit 5-of-10 (50 percent) from 3-point range in the second half while shooting 54 percent (13-24) from the field. The Trojans hit 54 percent (14-26) from the field, but failed to convert a 3-pointer (0-7) in the final frame.
Quoting Coach Balado:
“I didn’t know this rivalry was this intense until about the first 10 minutes of the game. This was a great win and I’m proud of our guys. I told them after the game that tonight was a result of the way they practiced this week. I’ve been preaching on how important practice is and we had a great week or practice and walk through was great this morning. That effort really showed tonight and I’m happy for our guys.”
“I always tell our guys I’m not worried about them taking open shots. I’ll have to go back and look at the film, but I felt like we took less challenged shots and took more open shots. When you take better shots, they usually go in. It’s amazing that we are a 72 percent free throw shooting team and we go 9-for-20 from the line tonight. I can’t explain that, but I just know that sometimes in rivalry games, stats are out the window. The bench came in tonight and saved us.”
Arkansas State continues a three-game road trip on Thursday, Jan. 25, at Coastal Carolina. Game time is slated for 630 p.m. (CT) in Conway, S.C.