Boone, N.C. (A-State) – The Arkansas State men’s basketball team held a 24-point halftime lead and held off Appalachian State in the second half for 93-88 victory Saturday at the Holmes Center.
One end of the floor seemed to favor the teams as A-State (8-14, 3-6) shot 58 percent 21-36) from the field, including 7-of-9 (77.9 percent) from 3-point range in the first half. Appalachian State (9-14, 4-6) shot 57 percent (20-35), 11-of-18 (61 percent) on that same end of the floor in the second half.
Deven Simms led A-State with 23 points while Ty Cockfield had 20 points. Marquis Eaton made his first career start and had season bests of 16 points and six assists. Grantham Gillard added 13 points and a team high six rebounds. Ronshad Shabazz led all scorers with 27 points while Isaac Johnson had a double-double of 10 points and 12 rebounds.
The Red Wolves shot 51 percent (31-61) from the field and 63 percent (10-16) from 3-point range. A-State was 78 percent (21-27) at the charity stripe, hitting 8-of-10 in the final minute. Appalachian State finished 49 percent (31-63) overall and 50 percent (14-28) beyond the arc. The Mountaineers struggled at the charity stripe, hitting 12-of-24 (50 percent), including a miss in the final minute on a potential four-point play.
Appalachian State won the battle on the boards 38-33, but A-State committed four fewer turnovers and outscored the Mountaineers 19-9 in points off turnovers. The Red Wolves used nine steals to help hold a 12-4 advantage on the fast break.
How It Happened (First Half):
After shooting 25 percent from the floor at Coastal Carolina on Thursday, the Red Wolves came out firing. A-State hit 58 percent (21-36) from the field, including 7-of-9 (77.8 percent) beyond the arc. While the shooting numbers were high, A-State held the Mountaineers to 39 percent (11-28) overall and 3-of-10 (30 percent) from 3-point range.
A-State scored the first five points of the game before the Mountaineers reeled off the next six for their only lead of the game. The Red Wolves used a 13-2 run midway through the half to grab a 16 point advantage, 33-17, with 8:07 left. A-State saw the lead grow to 24, 56-32, by scoring the final five points of the half
The Red Wolves saw all five starters score four or more points in the first frame with Simms leading the way with 16 points. A-State logged eight steals and forced 11 turnovers in the first half to the tune of a 12-2 advantage on the fast break and 19-9 lead in points off turnovers.
How It Happened (Second Half):
Appalachian State chipped away at the lead much of the first 10 minutes of the second half, but didn’t trim the A-State lead below 20 points. A 12-2 run saw the A-State lead trimmed to 13, 75-62, with 7:06 to play. The Mountaineers continued to chip away as the Red Wolves lead went as low as four points inside the final two minutes.
Leading 92-85 with 22 seconds remaining, Justin Forrest hit a corner 3-pointer and was fouled setting up a potential four-point play. With the score at 92-88, the free throw was no good and Gillard pulled in the rebound to secure the victory.
The Red Wolves went 14-of-19 (74 percent) at the charity stripe, knocking down 8-of-10 in the final minute to preserve victory. A-State was 40 percent (10-25) from the field and knocked down 3-of-7 (43 percent) from long range.
Quoting Coach Balado:
“Look, when you play on the road in conference, a 24-point lead may as well be five. I thought in the first half our guys did what the staple of our program is and that is seeing an opponent shoot 39 percent on the defensive end while we shot over 50 percent on the offensive end and had more assists than turnovers. It was a great half of basketball, but when a team is down and its desperation, it’s amazing how many shots go in when they just shoot them. I kept telling our guys, the only way that Appalachian State would get back in the game was by shooting three’s. They hit 11 in the second half, but they are top-25 nationally in shooting three’s. The credit goes to them though, but our guys were excellent down the stretch executing offense and making free throws.”
Arkansas State returns to First National Bank Arena to host Georgia State on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN3.