JONESBORO, Ark. (11/4/17) – Under the direction of first-year head coach Mike Balado, the Arkansas State men’s basketball team scored 62 first-half points on its way to a 93-65 exhibition victory over Harding Saturday night at First National Bank Arena.
“I was very happy with the win tonight,” said A-State head coach Mike Balado. “We did some great things and you always go into games talking about what you want to take away from teams in scouting. The No. 1 thing for us tonight was take away the three-pointer and I thought if we did that we would be in great shape. They finished 1-for-17 so that’s a tribute to our guys listening to the scouting report and doing that well in the game. The other thing was we forced 26 turnovers and had 19 steals, which is excellent. We always want 10 or more steals along with 35 or more deflections and we got 40.”
“Defensively, I thought we did an excellent job since we held them to 33 percent shooting and five percent from three. Offensively, we were good in the first half, but I thought we played the scoreboard in the second half. Our guys were a little loose and we missed some opening shots. I don’t mind missing open shots; if you’re open and it’s a good shot, take it. The other interesting thing was we shot 86 percent at the free throw line. I’m excited that this team gets to the line and is able to finish. We’ve got to get better at fouling because 32 fouls is too much. We’ve got to do a better job moving our feet.”
Led by four players scoring in double figures, including junior guard Ty Cockfield with a team-high 17 points, the Red Wolves had 11 players register at least 10 minutes of action and nine who posted at least five points.
A-State wrapped up its preseason schedule by recording its largest margin of victory in an exhibition game since defeating Arkansas-Monticello by 31 points, 95-64, in 2013. The Red Wolves also collected their 23rd victory over their last 24 exhibition outings since the 2005-06 season and, including tonight, have won 22 of those games by a double-digit margin.
Junior forward Tristin Walley added 10 points for A-State, while senior guard C.J. Foster and junior guard Grantham Gillard both came off the bench to score 14 and 10, respectively. The A-State bench combined to finish the night with 50 points.
Arkansas State posted 10 steals, scored 25 points off turnovers and shot 50 percent from the field as it built a 62-37 halftime lead. The last time A-State scored 60 or more first-half points was Jan. 28 of last season at Louisiana (60). Its 62 points were just two shy of the First National Bank Arena record, although the records only account for regular and postseason games.
The Red Wolves never trailed as they raced out to a double-figure advantage, 13-4, within the game’s first four minutes. Still leading by nine points, 19-9, at the 14-minute mark, A-State went on 10-0 run over the next three minutes, while their lead swelled to as much as 30 points in the first half.
Harding never got closer than 22 points in the second half, which saw the Red Wolves outscore the Bison 31-28. A-State recorded nine more steals in the second half to finish with 19 for the game, six more than it recorded in any contest last season. Dating back to the 2010-11 season, A-State has posted 15 or more steals in just two regular-season outings.
Arkansas State finished with a .429 field goal percentage, while Harding shot 33 percent and made just 1-of-17 shots from beyond the arc after ranking 16th in the nation last year in three pointers made per game among all NCAA Division II teams.
The Red Wolves also held a 46-39 rebounding advantage, dished out 16 assists to the Bisons’ five and made 25-of-29 free throws for an .862 percentage. Sophomore guard Christian Willis pulled down a team-high seven rebounds, while Cockfield handed out a team-best six assists without committing a single turnover.
Harding was led by two players scoring in double figures, including Tim Wagner and Adam Horn with 21 and 13 points, respectively.
Arkansas State is set to open its regular season Friday, Nov. 10, with a 7:00 p.m. (CT) game at Evansville. The Red Wolves will play their home opener Monday, Nov. 13, against Abilene Christian at 7:00 p.m.