Forty minutes was not enough to decide a Sun Belt quarterfinal matchup between No. 5 seed Arkansas-Little Rock and No. 4 seed Arkansas State. In fact, it took 60 minutes for Arkansas State (19-12) to prevail over Little Rock 116-114 in quadruple overtime at Lakefront Arena in New Orleans.
A shot at top-seeded Georgia State in the semifinals was on the line and late in regulation, it looked like Little Rock (15-17) was going to come out on top. The Trojans led by six with 1:20 remaining, but the Red Wolves stormed back and took a 77-76 lead on a Melvin Johnson III layup with just eight seconds remaining. Little Rock’s James White split a pair of free throws on the other end to send the game to overtime tied at 77.
Two clutch free throws by Arkansas State’s Kirk Van Slyke extended the game to a second overtime. A three-pointer by Little Rock’s Leroy Isler with two seconds remaining pushed the game into a third overtime. Two more clutch free throws by State’s Brandon Reed forced the fourth and final overtime.
To finish the Trojans off, the Johnson III converted a gutsy three-point play with just six seconds remaining to put the Red Wolves up 116-114. Little Rock raced down the court to try to tie the game, but a firm defensive possession culminated with Ed Townsel blocking a Josh Hagins three-point attempt to clinch the marathon victory for the Red Wolves.
Arkansas State had five players score in double figures. Townsel, a senior, played all 60 minutes for the Red Wolves and led all scorers with 32 points, seven rebounds, six assists and that crucial game-sealing block. Van Slyke added 24 points and nine rebounds. Reed scored 23 off the bench while Johnson III and Kendrick Washington pitched in 19 and 11, respectively.
Isler led Little Rock with 25 points in 52 minutes played. White and Hagins added 20 and 17 apiece.
The Red Wolves will be tested with a quick turnaround when they square off against a well-rested Georgia State (24-7, 17-1 Sun Belt) squad Saturday afternoon. The Arkansas State players will have revenge on their minds as the teams two meetings (both Georgia State wins) were decided by just four points combined.
No. 3 seed Louisiana-Lafayette faces No. 6 seed UT-Arlington Friday night in the other Sun Belt quarterfinal game. The winner of that matchup faces No. 2 seed Western Kentucky on Saturday.