TULSA, Okla. (12/7/19) – A 15-0 run in the first half helped the Arkansas State men’s basketball team take a lead it never surrendered in a 66-63 road win at Tulsa Saturday in non-conference action at the Reynolds Center.
A-State (7-2) earns its first win over Tulsa (7-2) in the all-time series and it is also the first win over an American Athletic Conference member and snapped the Hurricane 19-game home non-conference game win streak. Senior guard Jerry Johnson Jr. (16) and junior guard Marquis Eaton (15) combined for 31 points to pace the Red Wolves. Junior forward J.J. Matthews and senior guard Canberk Kus each added eight points. Brandon Rachal led Tulsa with a game-high 17 points.
“What a game,” said A-State head coach Mike Balado. “What resilience by these players. I keep using the word resilience, but the difference in this game is we got down early in the game, but then we played like we are supposed to play for about 32 minutes. We made plays when we needed to a got stops when we needed them. Jerry Johnson Jr. comes through big and Marquis Eaton was awesome after having a few bad games, but he’s out of that slump now.
“I thought we took the shots we needed to take to get good looks and we made some big ones obviously. Caleb (Fields) made a huge shot and I’m not sure his eyes were open. Christian (Willis) hit a floater and Jerry (Johnson) took good shots. What we did, was turn them over and when we did, we scored off of it. It was unbelievable how poised Caleb is out there. I don’t even know even know how to explain it. He’s just so mature and doesn’t get rattled. He puts guys in position and gets the guys the ball that need to get the ball.”
Coming into the game, Tulsa had limited opponents to 61 points per game on 36 percent shooting, but the Red Wolves shot 51 percent (23-45) from the field, hitting 6-of-14 (42.9 percent) beyond the arc. A-State improved to 7-0 on the season when it scores 65 or more points as well as 7-0 when shooting 40 percent or better from the field. Tulsa also finished at 51 percent (24-47) from the field and hit 7-of-15 (46.7 percent) from 3-point range, but A-State won the turnover battle by forcing 13 turnovers while committing just 10.
Tulsa sprinted out to a 9-point advantage, 13-4, with just under four minutes played. After the two teams traded buckets, A-State tightened up defensively and held the Hurricane scoreless for over six minutes to build a 9-point advantage, 33-24, with 3:16 left in the half.
Led by Eaton and Johnson Jr. off the bench, A-State shot 58 percent (15-26) from the field and 44 percent (4-9) from 3-point range. The two combined for 21 of the 35 points in the first 20 minutes on 8-of-10 (80 percent) shooting and were 4-of-6 (67 percent) beyond the arc.
A-State led by as many as nine in the second half, 52-43, but the Hurricane refused to go away. Leading 61-59 with 41.5 seconds to play and five seconds on the shot clock, A-State forced its second shot clock violation on the game and Kus buried two clutch free throws to put the game out of reach for Tulsa.
Arkansas State remains on the road for its next game, traveling to Missouri State Wednesday, Dec. 11, in a 7:00 p.m. outing at JQH Arena in Springfield, Mo., on ESPN+.