Nobody has ever bullied the boards at First National Bank Arena like Norchad Omier, who set an arena record 26 rebounds on Thursday night against the ULM Warhawks. Omier played with the burning intensity of a lightning bolt, hip-checking and elbowing Warhawks into oblivion while obtaining the spherical prize he knew to be his and his alone. It was a task that rivaled any of Hercules’ mythical twelve, and it still wasn’t enough.
ULM’s Nika Metskhvarishvili hadn’t hit a three all night, but he buried one from the corner with only 16 seconds left of the clock to obtain a 1-point lead. With the game on the line, head coach Mike Balado assigned salvation’s bucket to his star Omier – and four guards who would combined would finish 6 for 36 (16%) from the floor.
“Driving. Driving and get to the free throw line. The game was being played very physical at that point of the game,” said Mike Balado at the post game presser. Not a bad plan, but the game ended with a desperate Desi Sills chucking up a no-chance deep ball.
“At the end of the day, the guards have to play better,” admitted Balado.
I have arm chair, hindsight questions. Why not put in a hotter hand, like Keyon Wesley, who finished with a career high 14 points? Why not put in Antwon Jackson to clear space for Omier? Why was three-point specialist Avery Felts involved in a play that required inside penetration?
The bigger question is, how does Metskhvarishvili’s three pointer (which seemed to visibly crush the Red Wolves spirit) deliver victory to the Warhawks who were once down 15 points in the second half? A pair of technical fouls (deserved or not) delivered a significant dent in the lead and a death stroke to the momentum. Cold shooting did the rest. The result: an opportunity to take over first place in the Sun Belt before a home crowd was shockingly squandered.
“We got to bounce back, put it to bed, and get ready for Saturday,” said Balado. Absolutely.
PHOTO CREDIT: MINE and Meagan Johnson