JONESBORO, Ark. (11/30/16) – The Arkansas State men’s basketball team wrapped up a three-game home stand Wednesday night at the Convocation Center, defeating Cleveland State 78-51 to run its winning streak to seven games.
The Red Wolves improved their record to 7-1 and in the process became the first A-State team to win seven consecutive non-conference outings since the 1988-89 season. While Arkansas State is off to its best start since posting a 7-1 mark in 2003-04, Cleveland State saw its record drop to 1-5 on the year.
Grant McCasland became the first head coach in A-State history to win seven of his first eight games, directing the Red Wolves to 4-0 home record, 2-1 showing on the road and 1-0 neutral-site mark over that span. A-State has owned at least a 20-point advantage during all seven victories thus far.
“Coming into this game, we knew that Cleveland State had been on the road quite a bit, but we had a lot of respect for their program and team,” said McCasland. “Watching them on film they played extremely hard and they did tonight as well. We focused on limiting (Rob) Edwards and him getting paint touches and for us to limit him to zero points speaks volumes to our team. We also wanted to limit transition baskets and we held them to zero fast break points”
A-State was led by three players scoring in double figures, including junior forward Tamas Bruce with a season-high 16 points. Junior guard Deven Simms posted a double-figure points total for the third consecutive game with 15, while senior guard Donte Thomas added 13 to go along with a team-high four assists.
“Offensively, we had our moments where we moved the basketball and we kept turnovers down until the last few possessions as well as fouls,” McCasland added. “Areas we’ve been trying to improve upon we did tonight. It was a great team win tonight and we had guys off the bench play well again. I’m excited for our team and excited for the opportunity to play at TCU on Saturday.”
The Red Wolves fell behind 9-6 seven minutes into the game, but responded with a 10-0 run to claim a lead it would hold the rest of the night. A-State actually outscored Cleveland State 26-8 over the final 13 minutes of the first half to take a 32-17 advantage into the locker room. The Vikings’ first-half points total was the lowest by an A-State opponent since Troy scored just 14 on Feb. 23, 2014.
Still leading by 15 points, 42-27, early in the second half, A-State put together a 7-0 run to push its lead over 20 for the first time of the game. The Red Wolves’ lead swelled to as much as 29 points on five different occasions in the second half before closing with the 27-point win, its second largest of the season.
The Red Wolves finished the game with a .519 shooting percentage, posting at least a .500 mark from the field for the sixth time this season. Cleveland State ended the night hitting 39.1 percent of its shots from the field. Defended primarily by junior guard C.J. Foster, the Vikings’ leading scorer, Rob Edwards (18.8 ppg), was held scoreless.
A-State also collected more rebounds (31-29) and outscored Cleveland State 38-20 in the paint. The Red Wolves got 42 points from its bench as well and scored 20 points off 23 turnovers by the Vikings. Cleveland State was led by two players scoring in double figures, including Demonte Flannigan with a team-high 14.
The Red Wolves will begin a five-game stretch away from the Convocation Center, starting Saturday, Dec. 3, with a 7:00 p.m. game at TCU. For the latest on the A-State men’s basketball team, log onto the team’s Facebook page at Facebook.com/AStateMB or follow the team on Twitter or Instagram at @AStateMB.