JONESBORO — The perimeter shooting touch that has been one of Arkansas State’s strengths this season abandoned the Red Wolves in Monday night’s home finale.
ASU finished 0-for-13 from the 3-point line in a 57-52 loss to Texas State at First National Bank Arena. The Red Wolves had made a 3-pointer in 305 consecutive games, a streak that began after a Feb. 24, 2011 victory over North Texas.
Head coach Mike Balado, whose team entered the game sixth among NCAA Division I teams in 3-point percentage at 39.88 percent, said he wouldn’t change anything the Red Wolves did offensively.
“I’m very proud of the effort our team showed tonight. Obviously the big elephant in the room is the 0-for-13 from 3,” Balado said. “Every shot that we took, I thought, besides a couple late in the shot clock, were very good shots, guys that we wanted to shoot the ball, guys who shoot over 45 percent. I have no problem with that.”
Even with its perimeter problems, ASU (10-10, 7-6 Sun Belt) led more than 24 minutes against the first-place team in the Sun Belt Conference’s West Division.
Texas State (16-6, 10-3 Sun Belt) never trailed after using an 8-0 run to take a 40-37 lead on back-to-back 3s from Isiah Small and Mason Harrell. ASU managed to tie the game twice, the last time at 50 on Norchad Omier’s three-point play witwh 3:26 left in the game.
Nighael Ceaser’s three-point play gave the Bobcats the lead for good, 53-50, with 3:01 to go. Down 53-52, ASU missed three opportunities to take the lead as Christian Willis missed a 3, Marquis Eaton missed a 3 and Caleb London missed a jumper in the lane, the last with 20 seconds to play.
Harrell sank two free throws with 19.3 seconds remaining and Willis missed ASU’s final 3-point attempt from the corner. Two more free throws sealed Texas State’s victory and ended ASU’s four-game winning streak.
“We were 0-for-13 from 3, we just had an off shooting night,” Eaton said. “They hit five, we hit none. That’s a big difference. Usually when it’s like that, you get blown out most of the time. I feel like we played good defense. They hit a couple of tough ones down the stretch. We just have to finish it out.”
Texas State shot 50 percent from the field in the second half, including 3-of-6 from the 3-point line. Harrell led the Bobcats with 17 points, including 14 in the second half, and picked up a Sun Belt Player of the Year endorsement from Balado.
“He should be player of the year. I don’t know what other player has done more for his team than that young man has done,” Balado said. “I’m voting for him. The kid is 5-9 and has a bigger heart than a lot of guys that I’ve played against.”
Small added 13 points and Caleb Asberry finished with 12 for Texas State.
Omier led ASU with 16 points and 14 rebounds for his 12th double-double of the season. Eaton added 13 points while shooting 4-of-11 from the field, including 0-of-3 from the 3-point line.
Eaton, the Sun Belt Player of the Week two weeks in a row, gave the Bobcats credit for their defense on him. Texas State entered the game 15th nationally in scoring defense, holding opponents to 62.3 points per game.
“They tried to make me play in crowds all night, no one-on-ones. Even if it wasn’t their rotation, you would see two or three people just fly at me,” Eaton said. “They were trying to get the ball out of my hands and then when I’d give the ball up, you would hear their coach say, ‘Don’t let him get it back.’”
The Red Wolves were 21-of-44 (47.7 percent) inside the 3-point line and 10-of-12 from the free throw line.
ASU led for more than 14 minutes in the first half, but never by more than six and carried at 25-21 lead into halftime after Willis sank a last-minute jump shot.
The Red Wolves shot 39.3 percent from the field to 33.3 percent for the Bobcats in the first half, but ASU was 0-of-6 from the 3-point line to Texas State’s 2-of-6. Both teams were hampered by nine turnovers in the first half.
ASU closes the regular season with a weekend trip to Texas-Arlington. Friday’s game time is set for 6 p.m., followed by Saturday’s tipoff at 4 p.m.