Texas State men’s basketball (16-6 overall, 10-3 Sun Belt) picked up its third consecutive win against the Arkansas State Red Wolves (10-10 overall, 7-6 Sun Belt) 57-52 on Feb.22.
With the win, Texas State has now clinched the No. 1 seed in the West Division of the Sun Belt Conference.
The Bobcats saw themselves down throughout the first half and the beginning of the second half. The whole game was played with transition defense by both teams, which resulted in both squads experiencing lengthy periods of missed shots. The clutch shooting by the ‘Cats allowed them to come back late in the game and take the victory.
The first points of the game came off a layup made by junior forward Alonzo Sule at the 19:14 mark but was quickly answered by the Red Wolves' junior forward Keyon Wesley, making the game 2-2. The whole game saw both teams shoot back-to-back with neither team giving up an edge on defense.
The early part of the first half saw the Red Wolves get out to an 8-4 lead with 13:28 left after a layup made by freshman forward Norchad Omier.
In this game, Omier was priority No.1 for the 'Cats as his shooting and rebounding was a consistent problem for their defense. He finished the first half with 10 points (5-9 FG) with six rebounds (two offensive) and one block.
The Red Wolves led 19-13 with 3:39 left in the first half. Junior guard Mason Harrell made a three-pointer from the corner to cut into the deficit making it 19-16. After a missed shot by Arkansas State, junior guard Caleb Asberry hit a jumper to bring the score within one at 19-18.
The Bobcats were able to tie the game up 21-21 at the 2:07 mark as senior forward Isiah Small made a layup after he was fouled. He sank the free-throw to complete the three-point play. Even then, the Red Wolves snuck in four points from Omier and senior guard Christian Willis to end the half 25-21.
Small (3-7 FG, 1-3 3FG, 2 REBS) and Asberry (4-6 FG, 0-2 3FG, 3 REBS) combined to score 16 of the Texas State's 21 first-half points.
In the second half, the Red Wolves jumped out to their largest lead of the night from a breakaway shot by senior guard Marquis Eaton bringing the score to 31-23 at the 17:55 mark. The Bobcats were able to immediately answer with a jumper by Asberry.
For the next 2:38, the Bobcats went on a 7-0 scoring run to make it 31-30 with 15:03 left in regulation. Asberry scored four points during the run. Harrell would set the tone midway in the second with his command of the ball and his elusiveness against the opposition's defense, specifically when he was given a man-to-man matchup.
The Red Wolves pushed their lead to 37-32 with 12:11 left in the period. The 'Cats were in a fighting spirit as they scored eight straight points to take the lead 40-37.
The two teams remained neck-and-neck with each other to the end, but the ‘Cats were never down after this point. Their stifling defense surrounded the opposition and confused Arkansas State's passing lanes.
The Red Wolves saw flashes of success from their offense in hopes of prevailing, but as time ticked away the ‘Cats were able to extend their lead with four free-throws from Harrell and Small to cement the win 57-52.
The ‘Cats shot 41.2% (21-51 FG, 5-12 3FG) for the game and were a perfect 10-10 from the free-throw line. The trio of Harrell, Asberry and Small combined to score 42 of the Bobcats' 57 points.
Individually, Harrell led the game with 17 points (6-14 FG, 3-4 3FG, 2-2 FT) with four rebounds and four assists. Small had 13 points (4-11 FG, 2-4 3FG, 3-3 FT) with team-highs in rebounds (six) and blocks (two). Asberry finished with 12 points (5-10 FG, 0-3 3FG, 2-2 FT) with five rebounds and a game-high three steals.
The Red Wolves would finish with 36.8% (21-57 FG, 0-13 3FG) shooting for the game. Thanks to the Bobcats' perimeter containment beyond the arc, the Red Wolves did not make a single three-pointer in the contest.
Omier led Arkansas State with 16 points (7-15 FG, 2-4 FT) along with 14 rebounds (seven offensive) followed by Eaton with 13 points (4-11 FG, 0-3 3FG, 5-5 FT).
Texas State will face the University of Louisiana-Monroe in a doubleheader from Feb. 26-27 at Fant-Ewing Coliseum in Monroe, Louisiana.