Slow Start Dooms Men

The Arkansas State men’s basketball team (9-13, 4-9) outscored Troy by 13 points in the second half, but couldn’t overcome a slow start in a 69-64 Sun Belt Conference setback against the Trojans (9-12, 4-8) Thursday night at the Convocation Center.

Three players scoring in double figures for the Red Wolves, including junior guard Sean Gardner with a game-high 20 points, led the Red Wolves. Adding 13 points each for A-State were junior guard Cameron Golden and sophomore forward Anthony Livingston, who also collected a team-high eight rebounds.

Troy was able to build a 42-24 halftime advantage and extended its lead to as much as 20 points, its largest of the game, early in the second half. While the Red Wolves were able to chip away at the score and pull within 53-42 at the 8:47 mark, the game then went back-and-forth for the next seven-plus minutes.

Still trailing by 11 points, 67-56, with 1:15 remaining, the Red Wolves made one final push that came up short while setting the final margin at five points.

A-State’s shooting percentage increased in the second half while Troy’s dropped, but the Red Wolves still finished with a .439 percentage in comparison to the Trojans’ .490. Troy also held a 40-24 advantage on the boards and outscored A-State in the paint 30-26.

Troy was able to open up a double-figure lead early in the contest, taking a 17-6 advantage with 12:30 to play when Musa Abdul-Aleem hit the Trojans third three-point bucket of the game. Troy was able to extend its lead to 32-15 with 5:01 left in the half, but A-State put together a 7-0 run over the next two minutes to pull back within 32-22.

However, the Trojans outscored the Red Wolves 10-2 the remainder of the half to take an 18-point lead into the break. Troy made four of its five total three-point baskets in the first half, shot 51 percent from the floor and hit all four of its free throw attempts to help it build the lead.

Troy played just seven players, but five of them scored in double figures. The Trojans were led by Abdul-Aleem with 17 points, while Kevin Thomas followed with 16. Arkansas State returns to action Thursday, Feb. 12, with a 6:30 p.m. road game at Georgia Southern.