JONESBORO, Ark. (A-State) - The Arkansas State University men's basketball team continues to find a way to win at home this season as the Red Wolves scraped out a hard-fought 73-68 come-from-behind win over a physical Texas State team in a Saturday (Feb. 22) evening Sun Belt Conference (SBC) contest at the Convocation Center in Jonesboro, Ark.
Five Arkansas State players scored in double figures for the Red Wolves, who won for the ninth time in 11 home contests this season. The victory is A-State's fifth in its last six games as the Red Wolves run their record to 16-9 overall and 9-5 in the conference.
"We weren't at our best tonight, but we grinded it out and found a way to win the game," said A-State head coach John Brady. "I was proud of how our guys came back from being behind, getting some key stops and rebounds. You have to give that team (Texas State) credit as they're a better team than their record indicates and we had our hands full. I thought our fans made a difference tonight with their enthusiasm and support."
A pair of seniors, guard Ed Townsel and forward Kendrick Washington spearheaded the A-State effort, particularly down the stretch with some timely rebounds and points. Townsel finished the contest with a game-high 20 points and Washington compiled 10 points to go with a game-leading eight rebounds. Senior guard Melvin Johnson III pumped in 17 points, which featured 3-3 from long range and 2-2 at the free throw line, to support the Red Wolves' balanced scoring and extended his current double-digit points string to eight consecutive games.
A-State held a slim 35-34 edge at the half after Texas State narrowed an 11-point deficit, 35-24, at the 4:18 mark all the way down to one point at the break by scoring 10 unanswered points. The Red Wolves snapped a seven-all tie 2:27 into the contest with four straight points to go ahead and were able to preserve their advantage for the remainder of the opening half. Ed Townsel's 10 first-half points was tops at intermission for A-State, which connected on 52 percent (13-25) of its first-half shots from the floor while Texas State was successful on 50 percent (14-28) of its field goal attempts.
The first six minutes into the second half saw A-State leading, albeit by a single point at 45-44 until Texas State's Phil Hawkins nailed a three pointer to give the Bobcats a 47-45 lead with 13:46 remaining. The teams would pull into a tie twice over the next minute and a half before Texas State scored six of the next seven points to claim a 56-51 advantage at the 8:22 mark. A-State gradually chipped away at TSU's lead and knotted the contest all up at 60-apiece on Melvin Johnson III's two free throws with 5:20 left to be played. A jumper by sophomore guard Cameron Golden off his own missed free throw would tie the game for the sixth time at 62 with 4:35 showing on the clock. Golden would hit another jumper nine seconds later to give A-State the lead, 64-62. Texas State managed to get within a point at 66-65 five seconds under the two-minute mark before the Red Wolves netted the next four points and led 70-65 with 47 seconds to go. Two Ed Townsel free throws put A-State up by six at 72-66 with 28.6 seconds left in the game and the Bobcats trimmed their deficit down to four (72-68) with 21.6 remaining, but were unable to get any closer as Ed Townsel made the back end of a two-shot free throw attempt to preserve the win. A-State was clutch from the free throw stripe in the final minute as the Red Wolves converted seven of eight opportunities.
For the game, senior forward Kirk Van Slyke netted 14 points before fouling out and Cameron Golden added 10 points off the bench in 22 minutes of court time. The double-digit points by the 6-10 Van Slyke marked his third such game in his last four appearances and the 21st time this campaign in which the frontcourt player has tallied double-figure points.
Forward Joel Wright led Texas State with 19 points and a team-high tying six rebounds. Guard Phil Hawkins joined Wright in double figures by tallying 18 points as the Bobcats drop to 8-19 overall and 4-10 in the Sun Belt Conference.
The Red Wolves, who shot 52.9 percent (9-17) in the second half, would make 52.4 percent (22-42) of their shots overall and went 23-of-32 (71.9%) at the free throw stripe. The Bobcats ended the night by making 48 percent (24-50) from the field and were 16-of-24 (66.7%) at the charity stripe. From downtown, A-State drained 60 percent (6-10) and TSU went 4-for-14 (28.6%). The home team would claim a slight 29-27 edge on the glass.