ABILENE, Texas (11/9/18) – Ty Cockfield scored 24 points and J.J. Matthews was a perfect 7-for-7 from the field, but the Arkansas State men’s basketball team dropped its season opener 94-73 Friday night at Abilene Christian.
“They jumped on us pretty quick and I kept telling our team that Abilene Christian is a much better team than our players thought they were,” said A-State head coach Mike Balado. “Abilene Christian is a really good team with really good juniors and seniors, but that’s not excuse. We should have played much better and that’s completely on me. I’m very disappointed tonight and several of our positions, particularly power forward which gave us nothing. We’ve got to get better and we will go back to work tomorrow to represent our university better in our next showing.”
With the 24 points, Cockfield produced his ninth career 20-point outing and logged a career high six assists. Matthews finished with 15 points in his A-State debut while Grantham Gillard led A-State with six rebounds. Jaylen Franklin led Abilene Christian with 24 points while Jaren Lewis had a double-double of 18 points and 15 rebounds.
Abilene Christian (2-0) shot 75 percent (15-20) from the field in the second half and finished at .564 (31-55) for the game. The Wildcats knocked down 8-of-14 (.571) from 3-point range and shot .774 at the charity stripe (24-31). A-State (0-1) shot .441 (26-59) from the field while hitting just .353 (6-17) beyond the arc and .625 (15-24) at the free throw line.
The Wildcats out-rebounded A-State 40-29, but the Red Wolves limited the hosts to just two offensive rebounds in the second half. Abilene Christian had a 40-32 advantage in the paint and a 17-11 edge in second chance points.
Abilene Christian scored the first eight points of the game and the Red Wolves were unable to recover from the early hole in the first half. An and-1 by Cockfield got the deficit down to 10-5 early in the half, but the Wildcats kept A-State down by six or more points the remainder of the period.
A-State was out-rebounded 26-20 in the first half, but the Wildcats turned 10 offensive rebounds into 15 second chance points. The Red Wolves trailed 48-33 at the half and saw Abilene Christian score 22 of those 48 points in the paint.
The Red Wolves cut the 15-point halftime deficit down to 12, 51-39, with 17:58 to play, but the Wildcats went on an 11-3 run to pull away. Abilene Christian used the run to build a 20-point cushion, 62-42, with 14:50 remaining.
Matthews sparked an A-State run that saw the Red Wolves trim the deficit to 12 points, 80-68, with 5:41 to play. Matthews scored on three consecutive possessions, but the Wildcats responded to regain a 17-point advantage and pulled away for the 94-73 win.
“Defensively, in the second half we gave up too many easy baskets,” Balado added. “We had 16 turnovers which is way too much. We’ll get back to the drawing board and get better. Fans will see a completely different team on Monday. We’ll practice tomorrow and Sunday and the bottom line is we are going to get better.”
A-State returns to Jonesboro and First National Bank Arena for the home opener on Monday at 7:30 p.m. or 30 minutes following the conclusion of the A-State women against Memphis at 5:30 p.m.
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