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ASU wins ‘dogfight’ against South Alabama, 74-62

Published: Friday, February 1, 2013

Updated: Friday, February 1, 2013 01:02

          After two impressive defensive performances at home, the Arkansas State men’s basketball team got a bit of a reality check in a hard fought, free throw filled, 74-62 win over South Alabama Thursday night at the Convocation Center.

            ASU led for all but the game’s first 1:13 when a Marcus Hooten jumper gave the Red Wolves (13-8 overall, 7-5 Sun Belt)  a 4-2 lead, before going on a 9-0 run and ending up with a 16 point advantage with 7 minutes left in the first half.

            However, USA (11-9 overall, 8-4 Sun Belt) fought back with 22 completed free throws and 17 forced turnovers to get within two of ASU twice in the second half before the free throws went in ASU’s favor down the stretch.

            Associate head coach Melvin Haralson said he knew it was going to be a “dog fight.” Haralson took questions in place of an under the weather John Brady.

            “I was up till 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning looking at tape on these guys and I knew they played the same style of defense that we played,” Haralson said. “Get in your face type defense. I knew there was going to be a lot of fouls. My thing was who was going to protect the ball the best.”

            Both teams struggled with the ball, with ASU and USA turning the ball over 33 times combined.

            ASU was led in scoring by senior Trey Finn and sophomore Rakeem Dickerson, who each scored 18 points, with 14 of Dickerson’s coming from behind the free throw line and all 18 of his points being produced in the second half.

            “Rakeem was excellent; he did a great job at the free point line, hit his free throws, ran his team and got the win,” Haralson said.

            Both teams combined to attempt 74 free throws, with ASU making 30 of their shots.

            Junior forward Kendrick Washington made his first appearance on the court after recovering from injuries received in an off the court incident. The Shreveport, La. Native substituted in for Brandon Peterson at the 7:01 mark and played for 19 minutes, helping keep USA’s leading scorer, Rubit Augustine to three field goals, while making all 12 of his free throw attempts,

            “I thought he did a great job on Augustine.  He’s a really good, solid post defender,” Haralson said. “He understands the game and he does a great job recovering and boxing out.”

            Washington accumulated three points before fouling out 1:27 left in the game.

            “This was his first time touching the court since he’s been gone,” Finn said. “He hasn’t even practiced this week. What he did out there was good.”

            Both teams entered the contest with stifling defensive play, with ASU giving up less than 40 points in their last two home match ups and South Alabama not allowing more than 60 in their last three games.

            The second half was bogged by foul calls, among them three technical fouls on South Alabama; two against the bench and one leveled against Dre Conner.

            The Red Wolves fruitful free throw shooting backed up a still stagnant outside game, which ended the night with only 4 three-point shots completed on 14 attempts. The last came at the game-ending buzzer when Hooten lobbed the ball in from just past the arch as the rest of the players on the court begun to return to their respective benches.            

            Now ASU will look to finish out their home stand Saturday night against North Texas, a team members of the ASU squad don’t have fond memories of.

            “They put us out of the (Sun Belt) tournament last year, we’re ready,” Peterson said.  ASU lost to North Texas in the semifinals of the conference tournament last year, 76 – 72.

            To be ready for the Mean Green, blank says the Red Wolves will have to be a “Blue Collar” team in the way they play.

            “We sometimes don’t do what we need to do on offense and we need to kick it out to a wide open guy and we don’t do it,” Haralson said. “If our offense isn’t clicking, we need our defense to be aggressive and make things happen.”

            ASU tips off against North Texas Saturday night at 7:05 p.m. at the Convocation Center.

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