Photo Courtesy: A-State Athletics
JONESBORO, Ark. (3/5/14) - The Arkansas State women's basketball team finished off one of the best performances in school history and assured itself at least a share of the Sun Belt Conference regular-season championship with a 107-57 victory over Louisiana-Monroe Wednesday night at the Convocation Center.
While A-State won the Sun Belt's East Division in 2002-03, the Red Wolves picked up their first ever overall regular-season title as a member of the league in 2013-14. Arkansas State (19-10, 13-4 SBC) is now also guaranteed the No. 1 seed entering the Sun Belt Conference Tournament and could claim the SBC regular-season title outright with a victory on Saturday.
The performance Wednesday night was one of A-State's best this season and marked the first time since 2002-03 that the team scored 100 points in a game. Sophomore guard Aundrea Gamble recorded a game-high 30 points, while senior forward Jane Morrill added 19 points on 8-of-8 shooting. The perfect mark from the field tied the all-time Convocation Center record for highest field goal percentage in game, marking the second time this season that a Red Wolves' player has tied the mark.
"One of the great joys of coaching is watching kids cut down nets and having some fun with that," A-State head coach Brian Boyer said, who became the SBC's all-time leader in league wins. "It is not easy to win a league, and it is certainly not easy to win a league from day one, and that is what this team did. We've taken some really good shots, lost a couple and fought off some too, and it feels great to finally get this championship."
Following the first media timeout the score was tied at 11-11, but the Red Wolves went on a 29-7 run and led 40-18 with 6:58 to go in the half. Morrill ignited the run with six straight points and junior forward Jasmine Hunt followed with seven straight of her own as the Red Wolves took advantage of its size in the paint. A-State outscored the Warhawks (11-18, 7-10) 51-32 in the paint and shot 55.7 percent from the field on the night.
Arkansas State extended its lead to 58-31 by halftime and had three players in double figures. Morrill led all scorers at the break with 17 points, while Hanna Qedan and Gamble each had 11. The 58 points in the first half were the most by the Red Wolves in a half this season and A-State continued to put on the pressure in the second half.
"That was about as explosive of a first half as you can have," Boyer said. "We talked defensively about getting stops in transition and creating turnovers and I don't think the team even realized how well we were doing offensively. It makes you feel good because we were doing is the right way."
A 16-6 to start the second half pushed the advantage to 73-37 by the first media timeout, which was led mostly by the efforts of Gamble. The McKinney, Texas native scored 11 of the 16 points during the stretch and finished the final period with 19 points in 13 minutes of work. The 30 point performance was her third of the season and her first since Nov. 19 giving her the second-most career 30 points games by any active player in the SBC.
O'Bannon finished the night with 12 points and seven rebounds, while Qedan had 11 points and six rebounds. Hunt scored seven points, all in the first half, while Carlisha Wyatt, Khadija Brown-Haywood, Jamie Ruffins and Carlette Wyatt all finished with five points. Aundrea Pipkins added four points and Brittney Gill and Brittany Fowler each had two points.
Boyer also pushed his all-time career Sun Belt Conference win total to 136 on the night, moving him into first place on the career wins list for men's and women's coaches in the SBC.
Chris Graddy: Assistant Director for Athletics Media Relations