JONESBORO, Ark. (2/4/17) – Senior guard Devin Carter scored a game-high 25 points to lead the Arkansas State men’s basketball team to a 79-78 Sun Belt Conference victory over Appalachian State Saturday night at the Convocation Center.
The Red Wolves collected their sixth consecutive victory and improved to 17-6 overall, giving Grant McCasland the most victories ever by head coach in his first season at Arkansas State. McCasland passed Marvin Speight (1963-64), John Rauth (1949-50) and Jack Dale (1931-32), who all claimed 16 wins their first year leading A-State.
The Red Wolves are still in a three-way tie atop the Sun Belt standings at 8-2 and remain undefeated at home with a 9-0 record. The Mountaineers saw their record drop to 6-15 overall and 1-9 in league play.
Carter was joined in double figures by Deven Simms (15), Rashad Lindsey (11) and Donte Thomas (10), who also dished out a team-high five assists and recorded five rebounds. Freshman forward Jahmiah Simmons narrowly missed his first career double-double with eight points and a career-high nine rebounds.
Appalachian State posted a higher field goal percentage, .456 to .433, but the Red Wolves held a narrow 39-38 advantage on the boards and committed five fewer turnovers (9 to 14). The Red Wolves were able to grab five more offensive rebounds, scored nine second-chance points and outscored the Mountaineers 38-26 in the paint.
Appalachian State was led by three players scoring in double figures, including Ronshad Shabazz with a team-high 19 points. Craig Hinton recorded a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
How It Happened (First Half):
The first half was tightly-contested with eight lead changes and four ties, although Appalachian State was able to build an eight-point lead with 4:09 left that was the largest advantage by either team the entire game.
Trailing 21-20 at the 8:25 mark, the Mountaineers assembled an 11-2 run to go up 31-23. However, A-State responded with a quick 7-0 run consisting of a Lindsey jumper and layup and a Connor Kern three. While A-State was unable to regain the lead in the first half, it went into the break down just 39-37.
How It Happed (Second Half):
Appalachian State was able to quickly build on its lead again, which reached as much as seven points on two different occasions, the last coming 46-39 at the 17:15 mark. The Red Wolves used an 8-0 run at that point to take their first lead of the half.
It was short-lived, however, as the Mountaineers retook the advantage on their next possession and wouldn’t trail until under four minutes to play. Down 68-66 with 4:42 remaining, Simms hit a pair of free throws to tie the game, Carter followed with an old-fashioned three-point play and Simms then hit a layup to cap a 7-0 run by the Red Wolves.
A-State wouldn’t trail again as its lead reached as much as six points, 75-69, with 33 seconds left. A-State was able to make 4-of-6 free throws down the stretch to hold off Appalachian State, which made a three with one second left to set the final score.
This is the sixth time in Arkansas State’s NCAA Division I era that it has held a 9-0 or better home record.
Arkansas State has won six consecutive Sun Belt Conference games for just the second time in school history. The longest streak is seven straight games in the 1997-98 season.
The Red Wolves had at least four players score in double figures for the seventh time this season and now hold a 7-0 record in those games.
Devin Carter scored at least 20 points in a game for a team-leading 11th time this season. He has reached 20 points in 26 career contests.
A-State improved to 7-0 in games decided by six or fewer points.
Quoting Coach McCasland:
“I’m just grateful we won, honestly, because we didn’t play well. I thought our crowd was huge in those stretches where we needed stops. It’s fun now that we have such great participation in our game and we needed it tonight.
I told the guys in the lockeroom that one area that was big for us was only turning the ball over nine times tonight. We gave ourselves chances at the rim and a guy like Devin Carter improved by going 6-for-9 from two. He missed some three’s, but he didn’t settle and got to the rim. He got to the foul line and goes 7-for-9. Simms was the same way, but we’ve got to shoot the free throws better. There’s a lot of ways we could get better, but great teams find a way and that’s what we did tonight. You’ve got to give Appalachian State a lot of credit. They are a gritty team and real aggressive in the way they compete.”
The Red Wolves look to keep up their defense of home court with Monday’s 7 p.m. matchup against Coastal Carolina.