JONESBORO — Arkansas State swept its first Sun Belt Conference women’s basketball series when other teams in the league could only manage a two-game split.
The Red Wolves finished a successful opening weekend Saturday by routing Texas State 70-54 at First National Bank Arena, building on Friday night’s 54-53 victory over the Bobcats to move to 2-0 in league play.
None of the eight Sun Belt women’s teams that played last weekend to open conference play were able to win twice, each settling for 1-1.
“I’m really proud of our group of kids tonight. They didn’t play like kids, they played like grownups,” ASU head coach Matt Daniel said after his team’s seventh consecutive victory. “We’ve got a lot we can work on, but we’re the first team to hold serve (in Sun Belt play) in the opening weekend of play. We’ve got the No. 1 defense in the league right now, they told me, so I’m just really pleased with our group.”
ASU (7-1) had to sweat out a close finish Friday, taking the lead for good when junior forward Trinitee Jackson scored with 15 seconds left in the game. Texas State (4-5, 1-3) had possession twice and was unable to score after Jackson’s basket.
Saturday’s game proved much easier for the Red Wolves, who scored the first 11 points and led by 19 at halftime. Texas State made a run in the third quarter, pulling within seven before ASU reestablished control and held a double-figure lead throughout the final period.
“I expected it to be harder than what it was,” ASU junior guard Jada Stinson said of playing back-to-back days, “but I think just our adrenaline and our motivation, knowing where we wanted to be when the game was over, helped out a lot.”
ASU was 12-of-16 from the field, including 4-of-5 from the 3-point line, while opening a 29-14 lead in the first quarter. The Red Wolves were 9-of-17 from the field in the second quarter while building a 48-29 halftime lead.
“I just thought we were really focused,” Daniel said. “I think the team that has the most fun and the toughest team usually wins, especially on a back-to-back because I didn’t know what it was going to look like, and we played a good team.”
Senior forward Peyton Martin led the Red Wolves with 18 points. Stinson finished with 12, while junior guard Jireh Washington and junior forward Karolina Szydlowska scored 11 each.
ASU outrebounded Texas State 38-32 and held the Bobcats to 32.7 percent (17-of-52) shooting from the field. Forwards Lauryn Thompson and Da’Nasia Hood led Texas State with 15 and 12 points, respectively.
Texas State opened the second half on a 14-2 run to close within 50-43 with 3:11 left in the third quarter. Washington scored twice after steals as ASU halted the Bobcats’ run and led 54-44 at the end of the quarter.
The Red Wolves were 12-of-15 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter after shooting only two in the first three quarters combined.
“In the first three quarters they fouled three times, I think, according to the scorebook,” Daniel said. “We were able to get to the free throw line (in the fourth quarter) and we were better from the free throw line, made 13 of 17. I’ll tell you the secret to that is you don’t practice them. We didn’t talk about it, we didn’t practice it. Just let them fly. If you’re not making them, don’t put pressure on them.”
Morgan Wallace and Washington led ASU with 12 and 11 points, respectively, in Friday night’s game. The score was tied three times and the lead changed nine times, the last on Jackson’s game-winning basket.
ASU visits Louisiana-Monroe next Friday and Saturday. The teams also have a two-game series in Jonesboro to make up and Daniel said there is a chance the teams could do that the following week on Monday and Tuesday. If that’s the case, the Red Wolves would then have two days to prepare for another home series Jan. 22-23 with Louisiana-Lafayette.
“Six games in nine days,” Daniel said. “Are we built to do that? I don’t know that anybody is, but we’ll see what happens.”