Slow start sinks A-State men

MOBILE, Ala.  – South Alabama opened the game with a 14-3 run and the Arkansas State men’s basketball could not recover in a 75-59 loss Thursday in Sun Belt Conference play at the Mitchell Center.

Marquis Eaton led A-State (11-6, 3-3 Sun Belt) with 20 points, his sixth career outing with 20 or more points. J.J. Matthews also reached double figures with 11 points and seven rebounds. Caleb Fields had a game-high five assists. Four players reached double figures for South Alabama (10-7, 3-3 Sun Belt) led by 20 points from Josh Ajayi.

Despite shooting 50 percent (10-20) from the field in the first half, A-State trailed by 14, 38-24, at the half. The Red Wolves committed 10 turnovers in the opening 20 minutes resulting in 14 points for the Jaguars. South Alabama hit their first three 3-point attempts and finished 4-of-5 (80 percent) in the half in which they led by as many as 16 points.

Following the 14-3 spurt to open the game, a six-point deficit, 22-16, was as close as the Red Wolves could get for the game. South Alabama went on a 7-0 run to regain a double-digit advantage it did not surrender. A 10-point deficit, 48-38, was as close as the Red Wolves got in the second half.

Ranking top-five in the nation in both free throws made and free throws attempted entering the game, A-State had just two free throw attempts before converting their first free throw make with 9:14 remaining in the game. South Alabama finished 25-of-35 (71.4 percent) at the line while A-State was 10-of-13 (76.9 percent)

The Red Wolves shot 45.7 percent (21-46) for the game, hitting 7-of-19 (36.8 percent) from 3-point range. The loss marks the first time this season A-State has lost when shooting at least 40 percent from the field. South Alabama was 47.9 percent (23-48) from the field, including 4-of-7 (57.1 percent) beyond the arc. The Jaguars finished with a 23-4 advantage in points off turnovers and a 30-27 edge on the glass.

A-State returns to First National Bank Arena to host Troy Saturday at 4 p.m.

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