JONESBORO, Ark. (A-State) - Senior guard Melvin Johnson III booked his fourth 20-plus point scoring total of the season with a game-high 21 points to power the Arkansas State University men's basketball team to a 77-49 decision over rival UALR this Saturday (Jan. 25) night in Sun Belt Conference (SBC) action before a Convocation Center crowd of 5,631 fans in Jonesboro, Ark.
Arkansas State's sixth win in its last nine games sent the Red Wolves to 11-7 overall and 4-3 in the conference this season. A-State also prevailed for the sixth time in eight home appearances this campaign.
Senior forwards Kendrick Washington and Kirk Van Slyke joined Johnson III in double figures with 16 and 15 points, respectively. Johnson III collected his 21 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the floor, including 3-for-6 in triples, and went 6-for-8 at the free throw line in 25 minutes of action. Washington grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds to post his third double-double of this season and Van Slyke scored double figures for the 11th consecutive time.
"This was a good win for us and I glad we did it when we did it in front of a great crowd," said A-State head coach John Brady. "Our team was prepared (for the game) and I was proud of our guys. We had a great effort and our defensive involvement was solid for 40 minutes."
A-State started the contest scoring first and would never trail the rest of the way. Six-plus minutes into the game, A-State had built up a 10-point advantage before a UALR basket cut the Red Wolves' lead down to eight points at 15-7 with 13:13 to go in the half. From there, A-State went on a 7-2 run to take a 22-9 advantage on a Melvin Johnson III layup at the 10:17 mark. The Trojans would turn the table with a 7-2 spurt of their own in the next four minutes to trim A-State's lead to eight at 24-16. The Red Wolves would go on to outscore UALR 14-6 in the last six minutes to head into the locker room ahead 38-24.
The Red Wolves pushed their lead up to 22 points at 46-24 four minutes into the second half before UALR put together a short rally to narrow its margin to 48-32 with just under 13 minutes left to be played as the visitors would get no closer than 16 points. From there, A-State's lead would range between 17 points all the way up to 31 points at 75-44 with 3:49 remaining in the game.
A-State didn't shoot the ball particularly well from the field as the Red Wolves finished with 39 percent efficiency (23-59), but manage to turn in their best defensive performance of this season by holding the Trojans to 24.1 percent (14-58) from the floor. The free throw line was a different story for A-State as the Red Wolves shot the ball well, knocking down 26-of-32 attempts for 81.3 percent.
Senior guard Ed Townsel pumped in nine points, which included a trey for his 1,000th -career point, and hauled down nine boards while junior guard Rakeem Dickerson added eight points in A-State's 28-point victory over its instate rival. Kirk Van Slyke contributed eight rebounds and senior guard Brandon Reed pulled down seven caroms in 19 minutes of court time as the Red Wolves ended the night with a 52-39 boards advantage.
Josh Leeper was the lone UALR player in double figures with 10 points as the Trojans are now 10-10 overall on the season and 5-3 in league action.