JONESBORO- The Arkansas State men’s basketball team fell at home for only the fourth time this season in a 71-64 loss to the Appalachian State Mountaineers.
The Red Wolves (15-8 overall, 7-5 SBC) only scored seven points in the last eight minutes and Appalachian State took total control over the game.
The game really swung in the favor of App State when A-State head Coach Mike Balado was called for a technical foul with 7:34 to play in the game. The Mountaineers scored four free throws in a row after a foul and the technical foul combined. Those free throws were part of a 13-0 run.
“All I did was jump in the air,” Balado said about the technical foul. “I’ve never had anybody tell me I jump too high. I just jumped in the air and he said it was demonstrative.”
Although the crowd in the First National Bank Arena definitely thought the officials were terrible on the night, Balado was quick to point his team needed to execute better. He also gave a lot of credit to App State’s Justin Forrest. Forrest led all players in the game with 26 points.
“I thought Appalachian State hit some big shots, and deep shots that were timely,” Balado said. “Justin Forrest is a really good player, gotta give him a lot of credit. He played almost the whole game and kept them in it the whole time.”
Caleb Fields led the Red Wolves with 14 points while Malik Brevard and Jerry Johnson Jr. both chipped in with 10 points each. The Red Wolves started the game slowly and never seemed to gain enough momentum to turn the game around.
“I feel like tonight we did very bad rebounding offensively and we also gave up bad offensive rebounds,” Brevard said. “I feel like we’re a team that needs to start off fast. Tonight coach let us know we didn’t start off fast, they hit us in the mouth early.”
App State shot 50% from the field compared to A-State’s 40%.
The Red Wolves actually took a 57-53 lead with 8:23 to play after Fields made a 3-pointer but the Mountaineers answered right back after O’Showen Williams made a tough layup then completed the 3-point play after getting fouled.
Moments later Balado picked up his technical foul which led to Forrest making four consecutive free throws.
It looked like A-State might have a chance at a comeback down 66-61 with just over two minutes to play.
Then, Forrest hit a dagger of a 3-pointer to put the game out of reach at 69-61.
Johnson Jr. did manage to hit a long range shot of his own with just over a minute to play to bring the game to a 69-64 scoreline. The Red Wolves even got the ball back after Christian Willis fell to the floor. Willis secured a tough rebound on the way down and called a timeout himself.
However, it was not enough and the Red Wolves fell just short.
The visitors jumped out to an early lead and forced Balado into a timeout with the Red Wolves down 8-2 four minutes into the first half.
Johnson Jr drained a 3-pointer out of the timeout to bring the Red Wolves within three points.
The Red Wolves found it hard to find any rhythm in the first half as A-State could not stop fouling the Mountaineers.
Just eight minutes into the game the Red Wolves already registered six fouls.
Late in the half, Fields sprung a beautiful pass from one end of the court to the other and Melo Eggleston was waiting for a layup. The redshirt sophomore cleverly finished the move and got fouled before completing the 3-point play. This brought the Red Wolves within two at a 24-22 scoreline with 5:55 to play.
Forrest’s worst moment of the game was when he earned a flop warning late in the half much to the amusement of the A-State faithful.
Marquis Eaton’s first and only basket from the field came almost 16 minutes into the half but it was a major 3-pointer for A-State. The beyond-the-arc shot brought the Red Wolves within one point, 26-25, and gave the home team some much needed momentum.
Despite this late push by the Red Wolves, App State took a 32-29 lead into the half.
The Red Wolves host Coastal Carolina Saturday in another SBC matchup. Tip off is set for 4 p.m.
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