HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (AP)- A.J. Slaughter scored 28 points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer with 26 seconds left, as Western Kentucky defeated Arkansas State 65-64 in the quarterfinals of the Sun Belt Conference tournament Sunday night.
The fourth-seeded Hilltoppers (21-12) trailed 62-56 late before rallying with three straight 3-pointers, the first from Anthony Sally and the next two from Slaughter.
Martavius Adams' layup then pulled the Red Wolves (17-14) to within one with 6 seconds to play. After Slaughter missed a free throw, Arkansas State got the ball back, but missed a layup.
Western Kentucky, the two-time defending champion, will face top-seeded Troy on Monday in the semifinals.
Steffphon Pettigrew added 13 points for the Hilltoppers.
Adams and Brandon Reed each scored 17 points to lead No. 5 seed Arkansas State.
Opening Statement from Head Coach Ken McDonald: "It was a pretty amazing basketball game. I give a lot of credit to Arkansas State, their coaching staff and their players. It was as good of a basketball game that I have been a part of. Obviously we were on the right end. If you were a fan of the game, you saw two teams playing their heart out. It came down to AJ (Slaughter) stepping up and hitting big shots. We had a lot of other guys step up. What a game, what a game, what a game."
Question for Head Coach Ken McDonald: On playing again tomorrow… "We have to get off our feet. It is more mental we are on cloud nine right now and we are not going to come off that cloud with our energy."
Question for Head Coach Ken McDonald: On Arkansas State... "They are going to be a force to be reckoned with. That is obviously exciting for Arkansas State. Coach Brady is doing a good job recruiting and he has them playing extremely well. They have the pieces to be in the top tier of the league."
Question for Head Coach Ken McDonald: On AJ Slaughter… "He always wants the ball in clutch situations and he continually gets it done. I was so excited at the end when he was yelling at the bench 'We are not going home, we are not losing' and I love that attitude about him."
Question for AJ Slaughter: On the last four minutes of the game… "We went in the huddle and said just give it all you got and we went out there and got it done. We were struggling on defense to get stops. Evans came up huge on the defensive end, protecting the rim. I didn't want to let my team down. I don't want to let myself down. That is not how I envisioned my senior year going out like that. I just wanted to try my best to put the ball in the hole and it went in for me."
ARKANSAS STATE Quotes
Opening Statement from Head Coach John Brady: "I am proud of our team. I am really proud of the way they are developing regardless of a one point win or loss. It is déjà vu; Slaughter hit two shots to beat us again. We were going to try and make him shoot it real deep or give it up. He didn't give it up he just backed up and let it go and made a big, big play."
Question for Head Coach John Brady: On the game… "The first ten minutes of the game we played a little over anxious. I thought the last eight minutes of the first half we kind of slowed them down and got some momentum offensively. We were able to get some turnovers and some easy baskets. Our offensive play energized our defense… We just weren't able to make a play or two in the last minute and a half to win it."
Question for Brandon Reed: On the comeback… "I think we settled down more the start of the game was a little uneasy. We just settled down and the game just opened up for us. We gained our confidence."
Question for Brandon Reed: On AJ Slaughter… "He is a great player and makes big time plays down the stretch. I thought we did a pretty good job contesting his shot but he made it. He is a good player and I wish him well but I still think we should have won the game."