Operating under first-year head coach Grant McCasland, the Arkansas State men’s basketball team defeated Arkansas-Monticello 76-59 Thursday night at the Convocation Center in its first of two exhibition contests before opening its 2016-17 campaign Nov. 11 at North Dakota State.
With the victory, the Red Wolves improved to 21-1 in exhibition games since the 2005-06 season. Including tonight, A-State has picked up a double-digit victory in such outings 20 times over that span.
Arkansas State was led by three players scoring in double figures, including junior guard Rashad Lindsey with a team-high 16 points. Senior guard Devin Carter and freshman forward Salif Boudie added 15 and 10 points, respectively, while freshman forward Jahmiah Simmons hauled in a game-high 14 rebounds to lead the squad on the boards.
The contest’s first nine minutes featured two ties and a pair of lead changes, the last coming on a tip-in by junior guard Deven Simms that gave the Red Wolves a 15-14 advantage with 11:14 remaining in the first half. The bucket began an 11-2 run for A-State, which outscored UAM 25-13 over the last 10 minutes to take a 42-27 lead into halftime.
The Red Wolves maintained a double-figure advantage through the first eight minutes of the second half, but the Boll Weevils were able trim the margin to eight points with 11:03 remaining. Trailing 52-37, UAM put together a 7-0 run to make the score 52-44.
That was as close as it would get, however, as the Red Wolves pulled away over the final eight minutes. A-State went on a 12-1 run over a four-minute span to turn a 58-49 lead into a 70-50 advantage, its largest of the game, with 4:11 to play.
“I wouldn’t say that was pretty, but I was proud of the way of our guys competed considering we weren’t very good offensively,” said McCasland. “I didn’t do a lot to help them (with substitution patterns), and we kind of let them play for the most part. Defensively, we had stretches where our guys did what we wanted them to do. Offensively, I think we can do a lot of things with this group. We can help them get a lot better than we were tonight, and that will help us defensively so we don’t end up in bad rotations in transition.”
Arkansas State finished with a .395 shooting percentage in comparison to a .333 mark by UAM and also out-rebounded the Boll Weevils 58-40. The Red Wolves grabbed 19 offensive boards as it posted 23 second-chance points to UAM’s nine. They used 13 players in the game and saw 10 of them score as their bench, led by Lindsey, produced 36 points.
“It was surreal, I’m not going to lie,” said McCasland about coaching his first game at Arkansas State. “The Convo is a really cool place to play, and I thought we had a good crowd. We missed some shots early that I think could have given us some momentum, and maybe we took them earlier than we needed to, but for the most part if we make a few of those we’ve got guys playing with a little bit more confidence. Maybe some of that was nerves and some of me subbing them out so quickly, but overall it was a great atmosphere and a fun night.”
A-State will play its second exhibition game Sat., Nov. 5, when it hosts Henderson State at the Convocation Center at 1:00 p.m.