JONESBORO, Ark. (1/23/17) – Junior guard Deven Simms recorded his first career double-double and four Arkansas State players scored in double figures, leading the Red Wolves to a 74-62 victory over South Alabama in a Sun Belt Conference men’s basketball game Monday night at the Convocation Center.
A-State claimed its third consecutive victory while improving its record to 14-6 overall and 5-2 in league action. The Red Wolves also remained undefeated at the Convocation Center, now holding an 8-0 home record for the first time since the 2010-11 season. South Alabama saw its record move to 9-11 overall and to 2-5 against Sun Belt opponents.
Simms posted career highs for both points and rebounds with 23 and 10, respectively. Also scoring in double figures for the Red Wolves were Devin Carter (13), Tamas Bruce (13) and Rashad Lindsey (10). Donte Thomas narrowly missed a double-double with nine points and a game-high nine assists.
South Alabama was led by Josh Ajayi with 17 points and team-high five boards, while Ken Williams added 14 points for the Jaguars.
How It Happened (First Half):
The game’s first 12 minutes featured five lead changes and a pair of ties before A-State took the lead for good at the 8:24 mark when Thomas made a tip-in to put the Red Wolves on top 23-22. The Thomas bucket started a 16-3 run that came to a close almost six minutes later with Arkansas State leading 41-27.
The Red Wolves’ halftime advantage remained 14 points, 45-31, thanks in part to their .571 field goal percentage and 30 points scored in the paint. Simms came off the bench to score 15 of his 23 points, while Carter collected eight of his 13.
A-State held USA to a .357 shooting percentage and posted a 20-17 advantage on the boards, including eight offensive rebounds that led to eight second-chance points. Ajayi scored 11 of his 17 points to pace the South Alabama attack.
How It Happened (Second Half):
Although Arkansas State never gave up the lead, it saw South Alabama open the second half by scoring the first 10 points to pull within 45-41 with 13:38 left to play. The Red Wolves were able to extend their lead back to double-digits, 55-45, over the next five minutes, but USA didn’t go away.
The Jaguars responded with an 8-2 run to pull back within four and trailed just 64-59 with 4:38 remaining. However, Lindsey hit a big three on A-State ensuing possession and then made a steal and drove to bucket for a layup to give the Red Wolves the momentum down the stretch.
Ignited by Lindsey’s five points, A-State outscored the Jaguars 10-3 over the final 4:38 to claim the 12-point victory. The Red Wolves saw their shooting percentage drop to 43.5 percent in the second half, but they still finished with a .517 mark for the contest in comparison to USA’s .404 percentage.
The Red Wolves posted seven more rebounds over the final 20 minutes, finishing with a 38-28 advantage on the boards for the entire game.
Deven Simms became the third A-State player this season to record a double-double, joining Donte Thomas (1) and Tamas Bruce (1). He reached 20 points for the first time this season, while Devin Carter has done so a team-high nine times.
Donte Thomas was only one point and one rebound shy of recording his second double-double this season and sixth of his career. He led the team in assists for the 16th game this year and 38th time of his career.
Arkansas State improved to 11-0 this season when reaching 55 points first. The Red Wolves also shot over 50 percent from the field for the 10th time this year and hold a 9-1 record in those contests.
The announced crowd of 4,440 was the second largest attendance for an A-State home game this season, just behind the 4,678 on site for last Saturday’s win against Troy. The last time A-State had back-to-back home crowds of 4,000 or more was during the 2013-14 season (Jan. 11 vs South Alabama, 4,344; Jan. 25 vs. Little Rock, 5,631).
A-State had at least four players score in double figures for the fifth time this season, including the last two games in a row. The Red Wolves are 5-0 in those games. They had a season-high five players score in double digits against Lehigh.
Quoting Coach McCasland:
“The student section was live tonight and that was fun! That was a good part of this. We’ve been talking to them and we’ve been waiting for the students to show up and that was a fun environment down there. It was like a party down there with a DJ. We’re so thankful for the turnout and the crowd was great overall.
We needed that crowd! On a game where you play Saturday and turn around and play again on Monday, you can feel a little bit like there is some sluggish play. We played some guys so many minutes on Saturday and I thought it affected us some today in stretches. It was good to grind out a win and find a way to get some stops down the stretch.
I thought a few key plays stood out tonight. One was Deven Simms in the first half when he came in and gave us a lift. He was a little sluggish at the start, but he turned it on and really changed the game. Rashad Lindsey’s play at the end of the game when we needed a stop was huge. He made a steal there when we needed it. Donte Thomas just commanded that game and South Alabama does a great job of putting pressure on the ball in those ball screens, but he made great decisions all game long.
From a team effort, we need energy and Tamas Bruce gave it to us in the second half after a slow start. He got in some foul trouble early, but he didn’t let it hold him down. He made some big plays. I’m excited about our team and where we are going. It was good to get a great home crowd for two games and it was a fun to be part of that atmosphere that our team, our university and our town can be proud of. Hopefully we can carry that energy over to this weekend in Louisiana.”
Arkansas State begins a two-game road swing against ULM and Louisiana. The Red Wolves will face the Warhawks Saturday, Jan. 28, at 4:00 p.m. and the Ragin’ Cajuns Monday, Jan. 30, at 7:00 p.m. A-State claimed a 74-65 win over ULM and 74-71 victory against ULL at the Convocation Center earlier this season.