With only four minutes remaining in the first half, the Red Wolves found themselves down 33-19 to the conservative-shooting Mavericks. One glance at the primary Arkansas State message board was enough to burn the eyes. The shooting was so cold, it chilled the beers held by everyone enjoying a brew for the first time at F’N Bank Arena. When Desi Sills and Marquis Eaton weren’t bricking jumpers, they were committing turnovers.
Red Wolves woke up, though. Cable Fields lit the fire first, closing out the rest of the half with seven points to cut the deficit to nine by halftime. Norchad Omier and Desi Sills punched the power-up button and erased the deficit two-and-a-half minutes into the second half. The Mavericks weren’t necessarily finished, but they were cooked all the same. Sills and Eaton each scored 16 points, and Omier recorded a blistering 18 buckets and 16 boards to record a dominating double-double over UTA. Final score: 75-70.
Are we ready to believe yet?
Mavericks arrived to Jonesboro with a pile of impressive conference wins, but also with low pre-season expectations (validated by a dismal OOC showing). Defeating UTA with David Azore putting up his usual 18 points was good business, but also unfinished business.
The Texas State Bobcats bring the league’s ledgers to Jonesboro on Saturday. A cold start will be more difficult to overcome against the Bobcats’ evenly spread offense and its penchant for junk-punching hopes and dreams with dagger threes. Texas State is the Sun Belt’s most accurate three-point shooting team in the conference, led by senior guard Caleb Asberry, who has averaged 20 points his last three games.
The Bobcats, tied for second in the SBC with the Red Wolves, are legitimately good, bearing the conference’s best NET (116) by fielding a team that evenly distributes scoring with the aid of a deep bench. Nighael Ceasar, the 6’8″ senior forward who seems to have played for the Bobcats since the 1990s, came off the bench and dropped 12 points and gobbled 5 boards on the UA Little Rock Trojans on Thursday night. A healthy Texas State can defeat you in a number of ways.
The bottomline here as that some of us won’t feel great about the 2021-22 Red Wolves unless they defeat Texas State on Saturday. Business wins against ULM, Georgia Southern and UTA are well-and-good, but it will be the Bobcats who provide the ultimate identity test for Mike Balado and Arkansas State.
It will be a battle of sharpshooters between Desi Sills and Cabel Asberry. It will be a wrassling match in the paint between Ceasar and Omier. Somebody will emerge from the dust the Sun Belt Sheriff. Grab a beer and watch the afternoon duel unfold.
PHOTO CREDIT: Arkansas State Athletic Department, Meagan Johnson