Instant Classic: Red Wolves Beat Trojans in 4th OT


Thrilling Doesn’t Begin To Describe It – Red Wolves Beat Trojans 116-114 in OT 4

NEW ORLEANS, La. – Arkansas State University’s Melvin Johnson III converted a three-point play with 6.8 seconds left in the fourth overtime for the game winner as the Red Wolves claimed a 116-114 victory over UALR this Friday (March 14) night in Sun Belt Conference (SBC) Men’s Basketball Championship Tournament Quarterfinal-Round action at Lakefront Arena in New Orleans, La.     

Johnson III, who was one of five A-State players to score double figures, finished with 19 points in a game which was the longest both in Sun Belt Conference and A-State history.  The contest featured 23 ties and 31 lead changes as A-State never held more than a three-point advantage throughout the entire contest.

The win advances fourth-seed A-State to this Saturday’s (March 15) semifinals where the 19-12 Red Wolves will take on Sun Belt Conference Regular-Season Champion and the tourney’s number one seed Georgia State at 2 p.m. (CT).  The game will be televised on the Sun Belt Network and ESPN3.

For Johnson III, none was bigger than the senior guard’s three-point play in the final seconds of the fourth overtime as Johnson III sank a free throw after having twisting through the Trojans’ defenders in the paint for a layup and the go ahead basket. 

“It was a classic and I’m proud of our team because they found a way to win it,” said A-State head coach John Brady.  “We made enough plays to win the game and had it won two or three different times but we missed some free throws.  Both teams fought hard and got into foul trouble as the game went along.

“This was a great game and fun to watch for the fans,” added Brady.

A-State had trailed by a point at 114-113 with 14 seconds left in the fourth overtime after UALR’s Stetson Billings made the second of a two free throws.  But, Johnson III’s basket and subsequent free throw made on a Trojans’ foul put the Red Wolves up 116-114 with 6.8 seconds remaining.  UALR would have one final opportunity but senior guard Ed Townsel blocked Josh Hagins’ three-point field goal attempt with about two seconds left and the Trojans were unable to get off a shot as the final buzzer sounded.

“I am really proud of our basketball team for the resiliency, toughness and energy they displayed tonight,” said head coach Steve Shields. “I think we’ve shown a lot of togetherness through the latter part of this season. As you can imagine, that locker room is a down locker room after fighting as hard as they fought out there. I’m proud of this team.”

The Red Wolves managed to send the contest into a fourth overtime as senior guard Brandon Reed sank a pair of free throws with 19 seconds to go after being down 105-103 with under a minutes remaining.  Josh Hagins missed a three-pointer with four seconds left and Ed Townsel collected the rebound to end the third session tied all up at 105 apiece.

A-State appeared to have the game won in the second overtime, leading 97-94 with 6.7 seconds left on an Ed Townsel free throw.  But, UALR utilized the remaining time as Leroy Isler took the ball down the court and drained a three-pointer midst three A-State defenders with two seconds on the clock as the teams went into the third overtime knotted at 97-all.  In the first overtime, the Red Wolves trailed 89-87 with 1:28 to be played following a Josh Hagins’ jumper.  However, A-State accounted for the final points as senior forward Kirk Van Slyke made both of his free throws with 29 ticks left on the clock to extend the game.

UALR claimed a 41-37 lead at halftime and would hold the upper hand with 1:20 left to be played in the second half at 76-70.  A-State proceeded to net the next seven points to go up 77-76 on Melvin Johnson III‘s driving layup with 7.7 seconds in regulation.  UALR’s James White would notch the game-tying point on a free throw with 2.3 seconds remaining after being fouled on a shot off a defensive rebound.

Ed Townsel‘s career-high 32 points in his school-record tying 128th career game played paced A-State while Kirk Van Slyke pumped in 24 points and Brandon Reed had 19.  Senior forward Kendrick Washingtonrecorded his fourth double-double of this season with 11 points and a team-high 10 rebounds.

UALR, which ends its season at 15-17 overall, was paced by Leroy Isler’s 25 points.  The Trojans had six players score double digits, which included four of their starters.

Isler scored a career-best 25 points on 6-of-14 shooting from the floor and an 11-of-12 effort from the foul line in his final game. He added five rebound and two assists in 52 minutes. Sophomore James White scored 20 points and grabbed seven rebounds before fouling out in the first overtime period. Hagins added 20 points and seven rebounds while freshman Mareik Isom scored 14 points and grabbed six rebounds. Junior DeVonte Smith totaled 14 points, five assists and five steals while Hill scored 12 off the bench. Hagins finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds.

The 230 combined points represented SBC Tournament record while the 116 points scored by A-State shattered the previous mark of 107 tallied by Troy against A-State in the 2006 tournament.

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