ATLANTA, Ga. (A-State) - The Arkansas State University men's basketball team had a golden opportunity to pin Georgia State with its first Sun Belt Conference (SBC) loss in a hard-fought contest, but came up just short in suffering a 73-72 hearbreaking loss to the Panthers this Thursday (Jan. 16) night in Atlanta, Ga.
Both teams gave the 2,089 spectators in the GSU Arena plenty to cheer about, particularly in the final minute as the fans rose from their seats and remained on their feet until the final horn sounded.
The Red Wolves (10-6, 3-2 SBC) held a 72-71 lead with 1:37 remaining in the game after GSU's Ryan Harrow hit a jumper after senior guard Brandon Reed</ViewArticle.dbml?ATCLID=209227315&DB_OEM_ID=7200> made the back end of a one-and-one free throw opportunity 13 seconds earlier.
Following back-to-back three-point misses by Reed and sophomore guard Cameron Golden, GSU would also misfire a shot from beyond the arc with 57 seconds to go as senior guard Ed Townsel grabbed the rebound. Following an A-State timeout with 46 ticks left on the clock, Reed's three-pointer from the corner hit the rim and the Panthers collected the rebound. Georgia State then set up a play for its top scorer R.J. Hunter, who took the pass on the left wing and dribbled down to the baseline before knocking down a fadeaway jumper with 11.1 seconds remaining.
A-State's Cameron Golden took the inbounds pass and dribbled down the floor before taking a jumper above the key which missed the mark with about three seconds left. However, Brandon Reed was able to collect the offensive rebound in the paint and drove to the bucket but his layup rolled off the rim twice with less than a second as Curtis Washington secured the board as time expired to give Georgia State its eighth consecutive win.
For A-State, Kirk Van Slyke led the Red Wolves with his third double-double of this season and second in a row by recording 22 points and a game-high 10 rebounds. Senior forward Kendrick Washington just missed a double-double with a 12-point, nine-rebound performance and Cameron Goldenadded 10 points to go with five rebounds.
"We did enough to win the game and should have," said A-State head coach John Brady. "We had an opportunity to win it and I thought we would. I feel bad for our guys as we fought hard tonight and it's unfortunate. I was proud of my team and the effort we had."
Georgia State (11-6, 4-0 SBC) led 38-29 at the half and held a double-digit lead almost the final 8:35 of the opening stanza before the Red Wolves cut the Panthers' lead to a single figure on a Kendrick Washington layup with six seconds remaining.
Arkansas State, which trailed by 11 points at 49-38 four minutes into the second half, would go on an 11-2 spurt in the next three minutes to draw within a basket at 53-51 following a layup by Ed Townsel. The Red Wolves managed to take the lead a second under the 10-minute mark on a three-ball by Kirk Van Slyke before the teams would have two ties and exchange the lead once. A-State was able to grab its advantage back at the 5:11 mark as Reed buried a three to give the visitors a 65-62 lead. Following two more unanswered A-State baskets, the Red Wolves were able to build their advantage up to 69-62 with 4:10 to go. But, GSU struck back with as R.J. Hunter hit a three-point shot with 2:21 remaining to cut A-State's lead down to 71-69.
R.J. Hunter, who scored the game-winner, finished with a game-leading 23 points and had a team-most six rebounds. Devonta White posted 15 points, Ryan Harrow added 11 and Manny Atkins with 10 as all but one Georgia State starter notched double figures in points. A-State would shoot 42.9 percent for the game by going 27-of-63 and was 11-of-28 in three's for 39.3 percent. The Red Wolves controlled the glass, outrebounding GSU 41-26. Georgia State went 28-of-58 shooting for 48.3 percent and was 10-11 at the free throw stripe (90.9%).
Arkansas State concludes this week's two-game Sun Belt Conference road swing Saturday (Jan. 18) evening as the Red Wolves face the WKU Hilltoppers in Bowling Green, Ky. A 7 p.m. (CT) start is set for the conference tilt in WKU's E.A. Diddle Arena, which will be televised live on ESPN3 via the Hilltopper Sports Satellite Network (HSSN). The contest can be heard live on the EAB Red Wolves Sports Network via flagship KFIN-FM 107.9 as Matt Stolz will handle the play-by-play duties.