JONESBORO, Ark. (A-State) - Arkansas State University seniors Kirk Van Slyke and Ed Townsel each registered a double-double in leading the Red Wolves' men's basketball team to a 72-60 triumph over South Alabama this Saturday (Jan. 11) night in Sun Belt Conference (SBC) action at the A-State Convocation Center in Jonesboro, Ark.
The league encounter, which was televised on the Sun Belt Network and ESPN3, featured Van Slyke pouring in a game-high 21 points with a career-best 14 rebounds for his second double-double of this season and Townsel earning his first with a 12-point, 10-rebound performance.
Arkansas State won for the fifth time in its last six contests as the Red Wolves go to 10-5 overall and 3-1 in the SBC. A-State, which improves to 5-2 on its home court this season, is off to its best start since 2008-09 when the Red Wolves won 11 of their initial 15 outings in A-State head coach John Brady's first season.
"We were better defensively tonight and I was proud of our team in how we responded the way we did," said Brady. "We played with a lot of energy and effort tonight. We made a difference in the defensive part of the game for sure and it was a good game for us to win. We just need to have the real desire not to be satisfied with anything we've done because we can get better.
"We're a much better team than our fans have seen at this point and we haven't shot the ball well in our building so far this season," added Brady.
Van Slyke, a forward, reached double-figure scoring for the 14th time this season and extended his double-digit points string to eight straight with his 21 points. Townsel, a guard who earned the start for the first time in the last six prior games, responded with his fourth double-figure points output in the last five contests and grabbed a career-most 10 rebounds as A-State topped South Alabama for the third time in a row.
Joining the two in the double-figure scoring column was senior guard Melvin Johnson III, who netted 12 points off the bench in 16 minutes of action. Senior forward Kendrick Washington added nine points to go with a game high in both blocked shots (three) and steals (two).
The Red Wolves' defense was a big difference in the outcome, holding South Alabama to just 34.5% (19-55) from the floor and the 2013-14 SBC Preseason Player of the Year Augustine Rubit to nine points while A-State shot 23-of-54 (42.6%). The Red Wolves controlled the boards as well, outrebounding the Jaguars 41-33 while blocking four shots and forcing nine turnovers.
South Alabama, who's overall record drops to 6-11 and 0-4 in the Sun Belt, had only player in double figures as Aakim Saintil's 10 points was tops for the Jaguars. The setback was USA's sixth straight as the Jags have yet to win on the road this season in six away outings.
A-State led by a point with four minutes into the game before the Red Wolves went on a 16-4 scoring run in a seven-minute span to go up 23-10 with just under seven minutes remaining before intermission. The Jaguars were able to get A-State's lead back down into a single digit as the Red Wolves would take an eight-point advantage, 33-25, into the locker rooms for halftime.
The lead for A-State in the early part of the second half fluctuated between the double and single digit mark until 10:06 was left on the clock as the Red Wolves scored six unanswered points to take a 55-41 lead with 7:54 remaining as Kirk Van Slyke knocked down a pair of free throws. A-State managed to push its lead out to 18 points twice on two occasions the next five minutes and held a 68-50 lead at the 2:44 mark. South Alabama would outscore the hosts 10-2 from there to pull within 10 points at 70-60 with a minute left, but wouldn't score again.
Arkansas State is on the road for its next two Sun Belt Conference appearances, beginning Thursday, Jan. 16, as the Red Wolves visit conference newcomer Georgia State in Atlanta, Ga. A 6 p.m. (CT) start is slated for the matchup with the Panthers at the GSU Sports Arena. The game can be heard live on the EAB Red Wolves Sports Network via flagship KFIN-FM 107.9 with Matt Stolz calling the action.