NEW ORLEANS, La. (A-State) – The Arkansas State University men's basketball team saw its hopes for a Sun Belt Conference (SBC) Championship Tournament title dashed this Saturday (March 15) afternoon as the Red Wolves were dealt a 72-45 loss by tourney top seed Georgia State in semifinal-round action at Lakefront Arena in New Orleans, La.
A-State, which is now 19-13 overall on the season, managed to equal last season's win total (19-12) as the Red Wolves hadn't won 19 or more games in back-to-back seasons since 1986-89. A-State went 21-13 in 1986-87, 21-14 in 1987-88, and finished 20-10 for the 1988-89 campaign.
Georgia State, the 2013-14 SBC Regular-Season Champion, won its eighth straight as the 25-7 Panthers claimed a 32-24 halftime lead and then proceeded to outscore A-State by 19 points in the second half en route to eliminating the Red Wolves from the conference postseason tournament.
"Georgia State is a good team," said A-State head coach John Brady. "They are efficient offensely and have a lot of weapons. We didn't make the shots we normally do and they (Georgia State) had something to do with that. I was pleased with our effort and what we tried to do was very good, but we didn't shoot the ball well."
A-State seniors Kendrick Washingtonand Melvin Johnson III led the Red Wolves in both scoring and rebounding. Washington, a forward, recorded his fifth double-double of this season and second in a row with 12 points and rebounds apiece while Johnson III scored 10 points to go with six boards.
Three GSU players, led by Ryan Harrow's 20 points, scored double figures. R.J. Hunter, the 2013-14 SBC Player of the Year, netted 16 and Manny Atkins supplied 12 points. Those two along with Curtis Washington grabbed seven rebounds apiece to pace the Panthers.
The Red Wolves started out with a 7-2 run to take its largest lead of the game at five points just under three minutes into the contest. Georgia State erased the deficit over the next five minutes and a Ryan Harrow basket with 8:16 left in the opening half put the Panthers in front for good. GSU came out in the second half and upped its advantage to double digits, but A-State was able to get the deficit to under 10 points at 37-28 on a Kendrick Washington layup with under 18 minutes to be played. From there, Georgia State held no less than a 10-point lead until 12:21 as the Panthers went on a 6-0 spurt to increase its advantage to 16 points (52-36) with 10:53 showing on the clock. GSU would never be threatened the rest of the way as the Panthers upped the margin to 20-points plus the final 7:51 of the contest.