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Wolves advance; Trojans get boot

by Eli Lederman | March 6, 2021 at 2:36 a.m.

The Arkansas State University men's basketball team didn't hit a field goal for the final 5:44 Friday night, but held off Georgia Southern for a 62-58 victory at Pensacola State College's Hartsell Arena in Pensacola, Fla.

The win marks the Red Wolves' first at the Sun Belt Conference Tournament since 2014, and secured ASU (11-12) a quarterfinal matchup today against East Division No. 1 seed Georgia State at 5:30 p.m. Central

"We were able to make plays when we needed to," ASU Coach Mike Balado said. "And we got stops when we needed to. That's what got us the win today."

Later Friday, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock fell 67-60 to Appalachian State.

The West Division No. 4 seed Red Wolves led for the final 15:11 and used five made free throws in the closing six minutes to sink the East Division No. 5 seed Eagles (13-13).

Redshirt freshman Malcolm Farrington paced ASU with a career-high 16 points, and freshman Norchad Omier posted his 14th double-double with 10 points and 18 rebounds. Georgia Southern junior Gedi Juozapaitis finished with 12 points as the Eagles went 3 of 18 (16.7%) from three-point range.

ASU senior Marquis Eaton scored six of his 14 points in the opening six minutes while the teams traded baskets before a Farrington three-pointer kicked off a 15-4 Red Wolves run that gave ASU a 27-16 lead with 7:02 remaining in the first half. Georgia Southern responded with a 9-2 run and the Red Wolves entered halftime with a 31-26 advantage.

Sophomore Prince Toyambi gave Georgia Southern a 36-35 lead at the 15:19 mark of the second half. The Red Wolves -- who scored 11 of their 17 fast-break points after halftime -- outscored the Eagles 22-13 over the next 9:35, leading 57-49 after Farrington's fourth three-pointer.

"We just fell short," Georgia Southern Coach Brian Burg said. "They're a fast-paced team and they hurt us in transition. They got some easy baskets."

Farrington's make was ASU's last field goal. Juozapaitis' layup with 27 seconds remaining concluded a 7-0 Eagles run and brought the score to 57-56. Free throws from senior Christian Willis, junior Markise Davis and Eaton in the closing 25 seconds were enough for the Red Wolves.

"We were the tougher team," Farrington said. "We fought harder and we ended up pulling it out."

APPALACHIAN STATE 67, UALR 60

Appalachian State hit 12 three-pointers to bounce the University of Arkansas at Little Rock at Hartsell Arena.

The Mountaineers attacked from the perimeter and the Trojans paled in comparison, finishing 4 of 14 (28.6%) from three-point range.

"Am I disappointed by this season? I am a little bit," UALR Coach Darrell Walker said. "It was an uneven season. But I wouldn't change anything because my guys played hard and we just didn't make shots."

West Division No. 5 seed UALR (11-15) trailed from the 8:18 mark of the first half and faded late against the East Division No. 4 seed Appalachian State.

Senior Ruot Monyyong recorded 17 points and 10 rebounds for the 31st double-double of his career, and fellow senior Ben Coupet Jr. led with 19 points. Junior Nikola Maric entered as the Trojans' leading scorer but exited with just four points when he fouled out in the final minute.

Mountaineers senior Justin Forrest made five three-pointers and scored a game-high 24 points.

Appalachian State attempted 30 three-pointers, including 19 in the first half when the Mountaineers made 8 of their first 12 shots from deep to claim a 30-29 lead.

Monyyong's made free throws narrowed the Mountaineers' advantage to 41-40 with 11:54 remaining in the second half. Those points came during a 7:47 stretch when UALR went 2 of 12 from the field and Appalachian State expanded its lead to 55-45 with 5:36 to play. The Trojans never cut the deficit below five points again.

At a glance

SUN BELT MEN’S TOURNAMENT

At Pensacola, Fla.

FRIDAY’S FIRST-ROUND GAMES

At Pensacola State College

Arkansas St. 62, Georgia Southern 58

Appalachian St. 67, UALR 60

At Pensacola Bay Center

South Alabama 80, Louisiana-Monroe 72

Troy 91, Texas-Arlington 86

TODAY’S QUARTERFINALS

At Pensacola State College

La.-Lafayette vs. South Alabama, 5 p.m.

Coastal Carolina vs. Troy, 7:30 p.m.

At Pensacola Bay Center

Georgia St. vs. Arkansas St., 5:30 p.m.

Texas St. vs. Appalachian St., 8 p.m.

SUNDAY’S SEMIFINALS

At Pensacola Bay Center

Georgia St.-Arkansas St. winner vs. La.-Lafayette—South Alabama winner, 5:30 p.m.

Coastal Carolina-Troy winner vs. Texas St.-Appalachian St. winner, 8 p.m.

MONDAY’S CHAMPIONSHIP

At Pensacola Bay Center

Semifinal winners, 6 p.m.

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