JONESBORO -- Life in conference play can be full of twists and turns, as the Arkansas State University men's basketball team has found out.
The Red Wolves rode a three-game winning streak into this week and had the benefit of back-to-back games on their home floor. Those have turned into missed opportunities.
ASU fell 83-77 to Coastal Carolina on Saturday at First National Bank Arena, marking the Red Wolves' second loss in three days.
The Red Wolves (15-9, 7-6 Sun Belt Conference) trailed by eight at halftime and 10 early in the second half before they clawed back to briefly hold a 48-45 lead with 12:55 left. But Coastal Carolina (12-11, 5-7) was too much to handle over the closing 12 minutes.
In his postgame news conference, ASU Coach Mike Balado didn't try to hide his frustration.
"Defensively, we were ridiculous. It's embarrassing the way we're guarding the ball. Embarrassing," Balado said. "And I told them that in the locker room, and I'm going to tell everybody in the media -- it's embarrassing."
Coastal Carolina shot 52% from the floor, hit 9 of 24 from beyond the arc and held the lead for nearly 37 minutes to snap a four-game losing streak.
Balado has been displeased with his team's on-ball defense in ASU's past two losses, but he said it was an issue of players being out of position instead of effort.
"Guys just driving by and no resistance at all, just getting right to the basket," Balado said. "No guys trying to rotate over and block shots, no guys in the second line of gaps trying to make them pitch it one more time. Obviously that's a problem that we've got to fix."
This was despite Coastal Carolina playing without its second-leading scorer. Junior guard Keishawn Brewton -- who dropped 32 points and hit eight three-pointers in the first meeting against ASU on Jan. 18 -- announced Friday on social media that he is entering the transfer portal.
"I told you guys they were going to be better without Brewton. I knew that coming in," Balado said. "I tried to tell our team, but they weren't ready."
Four Red Wolves finished in double figures, including a team-high 21 points from freshman guard Caleb Fields. Junior forward J.J. Matthews finished with 19 points and five rebounds.
ASU players were not made available to the media after the game.
The Red Wolves took advantage of some sloppy play by Coastal Carolina, which fouled ASU 33 times and committed 16 turnovers. ASU finished 39 of 54 from the free-throw line and turned those 16 turnovers into 22 points.
But on a day when the opposition buried nine threes, the Red Wolves went just 2 of 16 from beyond the arc.
ASU opened 1 of 10 from the floor in the opening 9:39 of the first half. Coastal Carolina led 7-0, then 17-6 lead with 10:35 left before halftime. The Red Wolves' second field goal occurred when senior forward Malik Brevard scored in the paint to make it 17-8.
"I can't explain that. I wish I knew the answer," Balado said of the slow start. "Maybe Coastal's dying for a win. They've lost four in a row. Maybe they brought more energy than we did."
Fields made it a four-point deficit at 23-19 with just under six minutes left in the half when he converted a three-point play, but Coastal Carolina built up a 41-33 lead by halftime.
That lead ballooned to 10 with two Coastal Carolina free throws in the opening minute of the second half, but the Red Wolves soon went on a 15-2 run to go up 48-45 with just under 13 minutes left. Coastal Carolina guard Tyrell Gumbs-Frater answered with a three before Brevard scored to put ASU up 50-48 with 12:31 left. It was the last time the Red Wolves held the lead.
Gumbs-Frater led Coastal Carolina with a game-high 24 points and went 4-of-9 from three-point range. Point guard DeVante' Jones finished with 20 points and eight assists.
A three by junior guard Marquis Eaton with 5:37 left pulled ASU within 64-63, but Coastal Carolina went back up by six two minutes later.
"We'll get back to work -- it's on me -- get back to practice, fix all of it because we still got a bunch of games to play, still a lot to be playing for in this league," Balado said. "Everybody beats everybody up every weekend. We got to get back to playing the way we played two weeks ago."
Sports on 02/02/2020
Print Headline: ASU falls flat against Coastal Carolina