The first of 21 Red Wolves turnovers occurred within the first 30 seconds of the game, moments after winning the opening tip, when Norchad Omier was tagged with an illegal screen. Twenty turnovers later, the Texas State Bobcats were celebrating a 84-67 win, and Arkansas State was left with its fourth loss in five tries, sinking the Red Wolves to 7th in the Sun Belt standings.
“We have to do a better job protecting the ball,” said Coach Mike Balado just two days prior, after careless turnovers contributed to losses to Troy and South Alabama. That message was not only ignored on Thursday night, the problem only intensified. The turnovers arrived in a multitude of varieties – ill-advised bounce passes into the crowded paint, cross-court bounce passes that ended up in the seats, dribbles off the foot, offensive fouls, balls that inexplicably rattled out of what were once steady hands. The Bobcats collected 13 steals, many of which seemed to simply land in their stomachs for no reason at all.
The Bobcats were not without skill. At one point, Texas State nailed ten of ten shot attempts, pushing the lead to 20 points. There was simply no stopping Mason Harrell (21 pts) and Isaiah Small (19 points, 5 steals), who flushed the once capable Red Wolves defense like a top secret document. By the end of the night, Coach Balado earned himself a technical just so he could feel something, anything.
At times, there was a moment of hope. Omier and the Red Wolves emerged from the second half fired up, eventually chipping the lead down to 13. A foul on a three-attempt and and outlet pass that hit the stands later, that rally disappeared into the ether.
For the second straight game, Omier was denied his double double (9 boards, 14 points), though he did record four monster blocks and four steals. On the whole, the Red Wolves shot 46% from the field, which isn’t bad at all. Once wonders how the outcome might have been different had the team simply taken Balado’s advice and protected the ball.
PHOTO CREDIT: Troy Athletics supplied this photo because they are nice.