JONESBORO, Ark. (A-State) – The Arkansas State men’s basketball team used strong defense to get past South Alabama 66-65 Thursday at First National Bank Arena.
A-State (8-8, 2-1) improved to 6-0 on the home floor with the win and has held all six opponents below 40 percent from the field. Ty Cockfield paced the Red Wolves with 22 points while Marquis Eaton added 18 and Salif Boudie had 10 points and eight rebounds. Rodrick Sikes had a game-high 24 points to lead South Alabama (9-7, 2-1).
“No game in this league is easy as you can tell tonight,” said A-State head coach Mike Balado. “I tip my hat to South Alabama and Coach Riley because they are good. They can score the ball and they have guys that can play multiple positions and shoot the ball effectively. That was a great win for us and I tell our guys all the time, every game in this league is going to be tough. Every team we’ve played so far has been good. We had a lead and let it go. We continue to turn the ball over too much, but I thought Ty (Cockfield) and Marquis (Eaton) were excellent. Marquis was especially good on the defensive end and took a big charge there at the end. Tristin Walley gave us some big time energy and had two big offensive rebounds that helped us win the game.”
The two teams were deadlocked much of the first half with the frame featuring eight lead changes and seven ties. Neither team led by more than five, but A-State carried a two-point advantage, 33-31, to the halftime break.
Kobe Wilson hit back-to-back 3-pointers, the only treys for the Red Wolves on the night, to spark A-State to a 16-5 run as the Red Wolves took their largest lead of the night at 57-47 with 7:28 to play. The Jaguars responded later with a 10-0 run to lead, 60-59, with 3:55 to play, but the Red Wolves defense took over to pull out a win.
South Alabama converted two of their last seven attempts from the field, one of which was a 3-pointer at the final horn, while committing two turnovers in the final 3:55 of regulation. With South Alabama in possession of the ball and A-State leading 63-60, Eaton stepped up and took a charge with 16 seconds left to give the ball back to the Red Wolves.
After a timeout, the Jaguars fouled Cockfield with 12 seconds remaining. Cockfield split the free throws to make it 64-60 with 12 seconds to play. A 3-pointer by South Alabama was missed, but a tip-in resulted in a basket cutting the Red Wolves lead to two with five seconds remaining. Cockfield was fouled once again and calmly sank both free throws to make it 66-62 with three ticks left on the clock. South Alabama’s Kory Holden drained a 3-pointer at the horn, but Cockfield’s free throw proved to be the difference in the 66-65 result.
A-State shot 45 percent (22-49) from the field while holding the Jaguars to 39 percent (25-64) from the field. The Red Wolves struggled from 3-point range, converting just 2-of-13 (15 percent) while South Alabama hit 8-of-26 (31 percent). The Red Wolves converted at the charity stripe, hitting 20-of-26 (77 percent) while the Jaguars were 7-of-13 (54 percent). The Red Wolves commanded the glass 42-29 and outscored the Jaguars 38-32 in the paint.
A-State stays home at First National Bank Arena to host Troy Saturday at 4:00 p.m. in a game available on ESPN+. For the latest on A-State men’s basketball, follow the Red Wolves on Twitter @AStateMB, at Facebook.com/AStateMB and on Instagram at ‘AStateMB’.