A-State wins thriller over Georgia State

JONESBORO, Ark. – The Arkansas State men’s basketball team had five players score in double figures, and senior guard Jerry Johnson completed a four-point play with 30 seconds remaining to help the Red Wolves rally from a 14-point second-half deficit to defeat Georgia State 90-87 in Sun Belt action Monday night at First National Bank Arena.

A-State (11-5, 3-2) was led by J.J. Matthews with a team-high 18 points, while Melo Eggleston collected his first double-double of the year with 16 points and 10 rebounds, both season highs.

Johnson, Caleb Fields and Marquis Eaton all added 11 points each for Arkansas State, which limited Georgia State (10-6, 3-2) to a 41.4 second-half field goal percentage after the Panthers had shot 60.6 percent in the opening half to take a 52-41 lead at the break.

The Red Wolves also increased their shooting percentage from 33.3 percent in the first half to 64.0 in the second, while finishing the game 34-of-42 at the free throw line as well. While A-State ended the outing with a .481 mark from the field in comparison to the Georgia State’s .516, it committed just nine turnovers and had five players post a double-digits point total for just the second time this season.

The Panthers quickly extended their lead to 55-41 early in the second half and still held a 10-point lead, 65-55, with 15:14 remaining. The Red Wolves responded with a 13-3 run over the next five minutes to force the game’s sixth tie.

Georgia State wouldn’t give up the lead, however, and built the margin back to 80-72 with 5:45 to go before Arkansas State mounted its final comeback. Pulling back within 84-82 with 1:19 left on the clock, Johnson was fouled on a three-point bucket and knocked down the free throw to give the Red Wolves their first lead since a little over midway in the first half.

A-State got a stop on Georgia State’s next trip down the floor when Eggleston corralled a missed shot and drew a foul, sending him to the line where he made a pair of free throws with just 10 ticks left on the clock to put the Red Wolves up 88-84.

The Panthers made a three with two seconds left to pull back within one point of A-State, but Fields found Eggleston on a deep inbounds pass that the sophomore guard dunked as time expired to give A-State the three-point win.

“I am so proud of this team and their resilience and fight,” said A-State head coach Mike Balado. “In the second half we clamped down defensively and shot the ball much better ourselves. I think our 16 assists to nine turnovers, being patient offensively and guys just being confident when the game was on the line were keys to winning the game.”

A-State was able to take an eight-point lead, its largest of the night, twice in the first half. The Red Wolves led 26-18 before the Panthers went on a 13-2 run to take a three-point lead with 7:52 left before halftime. While the score was tied 35-35 late in the first half, Georgia State closed with a 17-6 run.

The Panthers were led by four players scoring in double figures, including Damon Wilson with a game-high 19 points. Both teams collected 32 rebounds and finished with 16 assists each.

Arkansas State returns to action Thursday with a 7 p.m. game at South Alabama.

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