Red Wolves lose and find their strengths on East Coast trip

David Jensen Media

Last night, I found myself watching Appalachian State host UA Little Rock in Boone. The game was strikingly similar to Thursday night’s contest against Arkansas State. The Mountaineers deployed incredibly disciplined defense, allowing the Trojans to smell but never taste the lead, closing that lid again and again with a timely three or contested jumper. The Mountaineers grind the nutrients out of their opponents, leaving only a dried husk to lament the missed layups and empty turnovers.

The Red Wolves might have withered after that draining loss to Appalachian State on Thursday – a game that made everyone look a little miserable. Instead, Arkansas State descended into Conway and fired better than 50% from the field against a Chanticleers’ team that had just won three straight. Norchad Omier left the kryptonite in Boone and recovered with 22 points and 10 boards. Desi Sills added a pair of threes and seven boards. Avery Felts and Malcolm Farrington – The Bench Brothers – combined for five threes and 19 points.

But it was Caleb Fields who supplied the late-minute firepower that pushed the Red Wolves to victory on Saturday. Fields dropped two threes and a set of free-throws in the last two-and-a-half minutes to fry the Chants.

It was the kind of clutch and consistent shooting that had eluded the Red Wolves in Boone, and it was largely done without Sills, who toke only three shots. (As usual, Sills found other ways to contribute.) Avery was especially effective, finishing 5/8 from the floor and hitting three treys.

Still, the key to the Red Wolves offense isn’t the outside game (though that does come in handy). It’s the feeding of Omier, who converted 77% of his shots and delivered the deathblow with a trademark NorSlam™to close out the contest. In Boone, Omier was bottled up and frustrated. In Conway, Norchad was the reckoning.

Arkansas State now finds itself alone in second place, 1.5 games behind the Mountaineers with South Alabama and Troy bubbling.