A-State races past McNeese State

Arkansas State’s Keya Patton (10) shoots over McNeese State’s Cristina Gil during the first half of Monday’s game. Patton scored 13 points in ASU’s 96-72 victory.

JONESBORO — Arkansas State is pushing the pace and piling up points.

Everyone who took the court scored and five players reached double digits as the Red Wolves routed McNeese State 96-72 in women’s basketball Monday at First National Bank Arena. ASU has scored 80 or more points in every game, the first time the Red Wolves have done so in the first three games of a season.

The Red Wolves (2-1) shot 48.8 percent from the field against the Cowgirls (2-1) while holding a double-digit lead for the final 30-plus minutes.

“We’re playing at a much faster pace and it’s more fun. It’s a little bit more loose, more free,” ASU head coach Matt Daniel said. “Any time you score 96, unless somebody goes and gets 40, we’re going to have balance, and we’ve got balance every night. It’s a different balance every night.”

Three of Monday’s five double-figure scorers were newcomers. Freshman guard Jade Upshaw was 4-of-10 from the 3-point line in scoring 14 points. Freshman guard Lauryn Pendleton scored 13 points, as did Auburn transfer Keya Patton.

Senior guard Morgan Wallace scored 14 points and sophomore guard Mya Love added 10.

ASU opened the season with an 83-52 rout of Central Baptist College and put up plenty of points Friday at Oklahoma, too, losing 101-89. Wallace, a fifth-year senior, is enjoying the Red Wolves’ offensive tempo.

“I love it. It gets everybody in the game, too,” Wallace said. “It’s not stagnant. Everybody is getting shots up. It just brings confidence to everybody.”

Pushing the pace, ASU took 80 shots. The Red Wolves scored 37 points off the Cowgirls’ 22 turnovers, a total that included 15 steals, and 58 points in the paint.

ASU opened the game on a 15-4 run and led 31-20 after the first quarter. The Red Wolves increased their advantage to 49-34 at halftime and 72-50 after the third quarter, eventually leading their Southland Conference guests by as many as 28 points in the final period.

Pendleton (47 points) and Upshaw (44) have started their ASU careers by scoring 10 or more points in each of the first three games.

Upshaw, a guard from Sapulpa, Okla., is 10-of-26 from the 3-point line. She credited Daniel for giving her the confidence to shoot.

“I came here because I knew he would have the confidence in me to be able to do what I want to do, like shoot,” Upshaw said. “He’s really instilled all the confidence I have and that’s why I’m shooting as much as I am. I don’t think if I would have gone anywhere else I would have had that confidence.”

Daniel noted that Upshaw, who had seven assists and three steals, did more than score, adding that everyone has the green light to shoot.

“We don’t tell anybody not to shoot it. You look around and everybody shot it, more than once, more than twice,” Daniel said. “The lowest shots we had on our roster was four. It’s no fun if you don’t get to shoot it, man, and (shooting) makes everybody more engaged.”

Three more Red Wolves nearly reached double figures as Karolina Szydlowska scored nine points, Mailyn Wilkerson eight and Trinitee Jackson seven. Jackson also grabbed a game-high eight rebounds as ASU finished even on the boards at 42.

Wallace said the Red Wolves need to be better on the other end of the court. McNeese State shot 38.7 percent from the floor, including 44.4 percent in the first quarter.

“They were getting really easy buckets in the first half,” Wallace said. “It kind of continued on in the second half, we got a little bit better, but definitely the first quarter, they were just shooting wide-open layups basically. We need to work on that for sure.”

The Red Wolves are practicing to prepare for Friday night’s home game against Arkansas.

ASU and Arkansas are meeting in the regular season for the first time since 1983 as they start a home-and-home series. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

“It’s a good game for everybody in the state. I’m excited for our community, that’s why I did it,” Daniel said.

“I certainly didn’t schedule the Arkansas game for me. I scheduled it for everybody else and I’m thankful Mike (Neighbors) and Fayetteville agreed to come here first. I’m excited, but they just got beat by 15 at UConn. Better hold onto your hats. They like to play fast, too.”

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