MOBILE, Ala. (2/13/14) - Senior guard Melvin Johnson III poured in a game-high 24 points as Arkansas State University routed South Alabama 85-61 this Thursday (Feb. 13) evening in Sun Belt Conference (SBC) men's basketball action at USA's Mitchell Center in Mobile, Ala.
Four players scored double figures for Arkansas State, which won its third straight in improving to 14-8 overall and 7-4 in conference play. Johnson III extended his double-digit points streak to five and chalked up at least 20 points for the fourth time in his current scoring string. Besides Johnson III, the Red Wolves received 17 points from senior forward Kirk Van Slyke along with 12 points apiece from senior forward Kendrick Washington and senior guard Brandon Reed.
Arkansas State tied a school single-game record by making all 18 of its free throws for the game and made 28-of-53 (52.8%) from the floor in addition to connecting on 11-of-23 (37.8%) three pointers. The Red Wolves continued to shine on the defensive end by holding their opponent to 65 points or less for the fourth time in the last five contests.
"We really played well the whole game," said A-State head coach John Brady. "Defensively we were good throughout and in the second half, I thought our offense was outstanding. We haven't shot the ball like this at home, but we shoot it well on the road. We really executed offensively and we just dismantled that team in the second half.
"I was proud of them and we need to enjoy this a little bit tonight and then think about Louisiana-Lafayette," added Brady.
South Alabama scored the first seven points to begin the game and held an eight-point lead over A-State at 10-2 about four minutes into the contest. From there the Red Wolves went on a scoring tear by outscoring USA 20-2 in a seven-minute span to go up 22-12 with 9:24 remaining in the opening half. South Alabama managed to narrow the gap down to three at 28-25 with 3:34 showing on the clock before the Red Wolves scored the next five and grabbed a 35-28 halftime edge.
The second half, in which A-State shot 64.3 percent (18-28) from the field, began with the Red Wolves holding no less than a five-point advantage the first five minutes. Melvin Johnson III, who finished 8-of-10 in field-goal shooting and was six-of-seven from long distance, would play a key part in A-State's lead and then even a bigger one the next five minutes as the backcourt player erupted for 18 points, which featured four three balls, as the Red Wolves' lead surged to 18 at 63-45 with 10:46 left to be played. A-State would increase its advantage by as many as 28 points (70-48) on a jumper by Kirk Van Slyke at the 4:15 mark and would go on to lead by no less than 23 points for the remainder.
The Red Wolves would finish the night with a 28-26 rebounding edge along with forcing 14 South Alabama turnovers in which A-State put 21 points up on the scoreboard. Kirk Van Slyke's eight rebounds led all players and Kendrick Washington grabbed six caroms for the Red Wolves.
South Alabama, which fell to 7-17 overall and 1-10 in the league, sank 45.8 percent of its field goals (22-48). The Jaguars, who lost their seventh straight, went six-of-19 (31.6%) in threes's and 11-of-18 (61.1%) at the free throw line. Augustine Rubit, the 2013-14 SBC Preseason Player of the Year, was tops for South Alabama with 23 points. Antoine Allen added 10 points and was the only other USA player to notch a double-digit points total.
A-State's perfection (18-18) at the charity stripe equaled a school record set by the 1974-75 team, which also made 18 free throws versus Houston Baptist and the perfect 13 shots set by 1975-76 squad against Stetson. Individually, senior guard Ed Townsel picked up a steal in the win to tie Trey Finn's (2009-13) third-place 161 career thefts output.
The Red Wolves will go for their fourth win in a row this Saturday (Feb. 15) night versus the UL Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns in Lafayette, La. A 7:15 p.m. (CT) start is scheduled for the Sun Belt Conference encounter at the Cajundome and the contest will be carried live throughout Northeast Arkansas on the EAB Red Wolves Sports Radio Network via flagship station KFIN 107.9 FM with Matt Stolz calling the action.
Joe Gorby: Assistant Athletics Media Relations Director