Press Release from Arkansas State Athletics
Juniors Morgan Wallace and Peyton Martin posted double-double performances, but Arkansas State's season came to an end in a hard-fought 82-71 decision to South Alabama in the first round of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament Tuesday night at the College Park Center.
The Red Wolves (11-19) clawed back from a 22-point deficit to cut it down to three early in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Jaguars (15-16) 30-17 in the third, but USA hit late free throws down the stretch to pull away with the win.
"(South Alabama) is a resilient bunch," head coach Matt Daniel said. "They've got a lot of experience and three all-conference players. We have to continue to mature and grow. Offensively, we were okay - we didn't get to the free-throw line as much as I wanted to, and we gave up too many points tonight."
Wallace scored 18 points while grabbing 10 rebounds, ending the season with three straight double-doubles. Martin also posted a double-double to conclude her junior campaign, scoring 16 points and hauling in 10 boards. In addition to Wallace and Martin, three other Red Wolves scored in double figures, including Payton Tennison (12), Jada Ford (11) and Jireh Washington (10). Tennison also grabbed a career-high eight boards in her final game at A-State.
South Alabama had three 20-point scorers in Savannah Jones (22), Shaforia Kines (21) and Antoinette Lewis (20). Lewis posted a double-double, securing 12 rebounds while Kennedi Centers corralled a game-high 17 boards.
USA scored the game's first eight points before Washington cut the deficit in half with back-to-back layups. The Jaguars then responded with eight unanswered to lead 16-4 with 4:55 to go in the first. That lead would hold, as USA led 27-13 after the first quarter.
The Jaguars stretched their lead out to 20 early in the second, but Wallace scored five straight to cut it back down to 15 with less than six minutes to go in the half. After USA went back ahead by 19 on a three by Jones, the Red Wolves surged back with six unanswered to cut it to 13 – a stretched that included four straight points by Wallace, who tallied 12 points in the half. USA ended the half on a 6-0 run to take a 46-27 lead into the locker room.
USA built its lead up to 22 to open the third period, but a 14-2 run by A-State that included a pair of Tennison treys cut it to 10 with 5:16 left in the quarter and forced the Jaguars to call a timeout. The Red Wolves defense held USA without a field goal for over four minutes before Jaylen Mallard ended the drought with a short jumper at the 4:30 mark.
Arkansas State continued to claw away at the deficit as the third went on, going on an 8-0 to trim the margin back down to five with less than a minute to go in the quarter. USA pushed back out to an eight-point lead, but Starr Taylor knocked down a midrange jumper just before the buzzer sounded, putting the deficit down to 63-57 after three. The Red Wolves outscored USA 30-17 in the third, behind 71.4 percent shooting (10-of-14) and 83.3 percent at the charity stripe (10-of-12).
After Ford opened the fourth with a trey to make it a three-point contest, South Alabama scored nine unanswered to reclaim a double-digit lead. That run was then halted by another trey by Ford in the corner. Ford knocked down another three to once again bring it back down to a single-digit margin.
Washington hit a pair of free throws with 1:26 to go to make it a seven-point affair, but that would be as close as the Red Wolves could get, as Kines knocked down six straight at the foul line to push USA's lead back up to 13 before Wallace ended the night with a short jumper with 10 seconds to go.
In the record books, Ford ended her career tied for third all-time in made three-pointers (189), matching Julie Hagood (1997-00) on the list, while Tennison finished her collegiate career tied with Hanna Qedan (2011-14) for ninth in that category (142). Ford's 62 threes made this season ranks tied for ninth in school history for threes in a single season, matching Brittany Fowler's 62 made in the 2016-17 season.
For the latest on the A-State women’s basketball program, follow @AStateWB on Twitter and @astatewbb on Instagram, while also liking the team’s Facebook page at Facebook.com/RedWolvesWBB.