Arkansas State University men's basketball team led Saturday's Sun Belt Conference Tournament quarterfinal 68-64 in the closing minutes, but went scoreless for the final 3:11 and fell to Georgia State 71-68 at the Pensacola Bay Center in Pensacola, Fla., during a game that saw 19 lead changes.
Free throws from Georgia State junior Eliel Nsoseme and freshman Evan Johnson gave the Panthers a three-point advantage in the final 61 seconds. ASU held two opportunities to draw level in the closing minute, but an errant pass by sophomore Caleb Fields and a moving screen by Norchad Omier undercut the Red Wolves' hopes of a comeback.
The Panthers (15-5) closed on a 7-0 run and relied on a game-high 17 points from junior Justin Roberts to advance to the the conference semifinals. The Red Wolves (11-13) shot 47.4% from three-point range and got 16 points from senior Marquis Eaton. Omier recorded his 15th double-double of the season, posting 16 points and 18 rebounds.
Malcolm Farrington scored nine points on 3-of-8 shooting from deep.
The Red Wolves opened 6 of 7 from three-point range and built a 13-point first half lead with perimeter shooting. Two three-pointers from sophomore Avery Felts and another from Eaton fueled a 9-2 Arkansas State run that put the Red Wolves ahead 24-16, and the lead was extended 2:26 later on made three-pointers by Farrington and junior Markise Davis that put ASU up 32-19 with 6:37 before the half.
Davis' make was the Red Wolves' last of the half, and the lead faded quickly as ASU missed 11 straight field goals over the final 5:54. A jumper by Roberts with 5:13 remaining opened a 15-1 run, and the Panthers sank their final six field goals to erase ASU's advantage and entered the locker room with a 34-33 lead.
Baskets from Fields and junior Keyon Wesley in the first minute of the second half ended the Red Wolves' drought, and ASU led 40-38 with 17:42 remaining on senior Christian Willis' three-pointer.
Georgia State regained its advantage with a 10-3 run that included points on three consecutive possessions and ended with an interior finish by Nsoseme that put Panthers ahead 48-43. The Red Wolves responded with eight consecutive points that included a pair of field goals from Eaton, and ASU led 51-48 with 11:33 remaining. The teams stood level at 54-54 with 7:53 to play.
The lead changed six times over the next 4:11, and Omier put the Red Wolves up 65-64 with a second-chance lay-in at the 3:42 mark. The lead grew to 68-64 on Farrington's three-pointer on ASU's next possession before Georgia State jumped ahead 69-68 with 1:01 remaining after a layup by senior Corey Allen and three free throws from Nsoseme.
Fields' lob to Omier on the next possession sailed past the freshman forward, who stepped out of bounds chasing the loose ball. Johnson was fouled on the inbound and hit both frees throws with 29 seconds on the clock before Omier's offensive foul forced ASU's second consecutive turnover.
The Red Wolves had one more chance after Johnson was fouled again and missed two free throws. Farrington's game-tying three-point attempt hit the front of the rim, and Willis' second-chance attempt went long, marking the end of ASU's season.
Georgia State 71, Arkansas State 68
La.-Lafayette 79, South Alabama 68
Coastal Carolina 86, Troy 68
Appalachian State 76, Texas State 73, OT
TODAY’S SEMIFINALS All times Central
Georgia State vs. La.-Lafayette, 5:30 p.m.
Coastal Carolina vs. Appalachian St., 8 p.m.