Playing four games in a span of seven days, including three over a four-day stretch, is gruelling for any team to endure. Coming away with a 2-2 record would be a satisfactory outcome, but a winning record would be ideal.
Putting together a perfect 4-0 record is the dream scenario, but everyone knows how tough that is, especially for a smaller school.
On Sunday, the Arkansas State Red Wolves were aiming for a perfect 4-0 record on the week.
They were taking on the high-powered Chattanooga Mocs in the finals of the mainland Maui Jim Maui Invitational, hosted inside Christl Arena, the home of the Army West Point Black Knights.
After disposing of the Black Knights on Saturday, Arkansas State turned their attention to the Mocs. Playing their third game in four days, fatigue was to be expected.
However, the Red Wolves came ready to play, seizing control of the game midway through the first half and never looking back.
Chattanooga made things close down the stretch, but Arkansas State wouldn’t be denied. The Red Wolves held on for the 73-67 win over the Mocs, completing a perfect 4-0 week.
Both teams went back and forth early on. Chattanooga got on the board first, with Justin Tuoyo completing a three-point play less than 30 seconds into the game. Devin Carter responded a minute later, getting the Red Wolves on the board with a three point jumper.
After Makinde London hit a pair of free throws to give the Mocs a 10-8 lead, Arkansas State took over. Carter got a layup to fall at the 13:26 mark to tie things at 10-all, and it was the start of a 13-0 run for the Red Wolves that spanned over four minutes.
The Red Wolves were ahead 21-10 following the run, and they would only build on it as the half ticked away. They stretched their lead to as many as 14 in the first half, taking a 39-25 advantage into the break.
Early in the second half, Carter and Tamas Bruce combined for the first 10 points for the Red Wolves, pushing the lead for Arkansas State to 20, at 49-29. The lead would reach as many as 22 points shortly thereafter.
But, the Mocs weren’t going to quit.
Chattanooga slowly started to chip away with under 10 minutes to play in the game. Greg Pryor scored three straight points for the Mocs, and Tre’ McLean connected on a three point jumper to cut Arkansas State’s lead down to 62-49 with 5:19 showing on the clock.
Pryor scored the final 13 points for the Mocs, most coming in the final minute, as the Mocs desperately tried to claw their way back and steal a win from the Red Wolves. Down the stretch, the Red Wolves made most of their free throws, allowing them to withstand the furious push by Chattanooga.
When the final buzzer sounded, the Arkansas State Red Wolves were the champions of the mainland Maui Jim Maui Invitational, as they held on for the 73-67 win over the Chattanooga Mocs.
For the Chattanooga Mocs, the duo of Greg Pryor and Justin Tuoyo did the bulk of the damage on Sunday afternoon, combining for 46 of the team’s 67 points. Pryor scored a game-high 24 points, on 7-of-10 shooting from the floor, while Tuoyo added 22 points and 9 rebounds of his own.
Makinde London added 8 points and 6 rebounds, while no other Mocs player scored more than 5 points.
It was a more balanced offensive attack for the Red Wolves, as three players scored in double-figures, and five players scored at least 7 points.
Seniors Devin Carter (16 points, 7 rebounds) and Donte Thomas (18 points, 10 assists) paced Arkansas State, while Jahmiah Simmons came off the bench and chipped in with 12 points.
With the win, the Arkansas State Red Wolves (4-1, 0-0) possess the second-best record out of any team in the Sun Belt Conference so far this season. The Red Wolves return to their home court on Tuesday night, where they will take on the SIU-Edwardsville Cougars.
The loss put an end to a mini two-game winning streak for the Chattanooga Mocs (3-2, 0-0). Chattanooga will have a few days of rest before their next game, a road contest against the Kennesaw State Owls on Saturday afternoon.
– T. Bennett