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ASU's Sills paves way on both ends in victory

by Mitchell Gladstone | January 2, 2022 at 2:25 a.m.

Georgia Southern;M;FG;FT;O-R;PF;A;PTS











PCT — FG 36.7, FT 58.8. 3-PT — 2-15, 13.3 (Curry 1-2, Savrasov 1-3, Archie 0-1, Brown 0-2, Weatherford 0-3, Bryant 0-4). BL — 3 (Brown, Toyambi, Savrasov). TO — 20 (McCadden 7). ST — 8 (Weatherford 3).
















PCT — FG 43.9, FT 95.0. 3-PT — 5-18, 27.8 (Eaton 2-5, Farrington 2-6, Fields 1-2, Tingling 0-1, Sills 0-2, Fantina 0-2). BL — 6 (Omier 2, Fields 2). TO — 18 (Omier 6). ST — 12 (Sills 5).

Halftime — ASU 27, Georgia Southern 22

Officials — Patterson, Schulte, Shortt

Attendance — 1,012

JONESBORO -- Desi Sills claims he doesn't play with one speed.

There wouldn't have been the slightest clue knowing this watching the junior guard, the red streak in his hair flashing between defenders as he raced all around the First National Bank Arena floor Saturday evening.

The Jonesboro native opened his Sun Belt Conference ledger with a victory, asserting himself on both ends as Arkansas State University roared away from Georgia Southern for a 74-56 win. Sills put up 15 points and matched a career-best with 5 steals, adding 4 assists and 4 rebounds, while Norchad Omier logged a third consecutive double-double with 18 points and 11 boards.

As much as Sills led the charge in getting the Red Wolves' offense going after leading just 27-22 at halftime -- handing out multiple assists from mid-air -- it was his defensive effort that put ASU in position to turn a five-point advantage into as many as 25.

"Tonight, I did what I had to do to get my team a [win]," Sills said. "I go hard on the defensive end because that's what my teammates want me to do."

The Red Wolves didn't show any signs of panic when the Eagles scored 12 straight points over less than four minutes near the end of the first half.

Coach Mike Balado said he thought ASU (10-3, 1-0 Sun Belt Conference) was perhaps showing a little bit of its rust, having not played since Dec. 21 against Lyon College -- the Red Wolves' conference opener, scheduled for Thursday, was canceled due to covid-19 issues with Georgia State.

And even though his offense went 1 of 9 from beyond the arc with 12 turnovers in the opening half against Georgia Southern's "bluff defense," Balado kept his halftime message focused on the happenings on the other end of the floor.

"I told [the team], if you want to play in this league and win consistently, you can't give up runs like that," Balado said. "We had five straight kills, [three stops in a row] ... and then every time we stopped, we scored, so you open up the game. It was [18], we could've won by 37.

The Red Wolves scored the first five points of the second half, and before Balado took out his starters for the final 2:30, ASU had gone 11 of 23 from the field in the half with four three-pointers on six tries.

What was most noticeable was the Red Wolves' change in aggression -- after not shooting a free throw the entire first half, ASU hit 19 of 20 at the line over the final 20 minutes.

Omier had a big say in that, making 6 of 6 ffree throws. They all came after the sophomore forward picked up a pair of fouls in the early stages of the second half, sending him to the bench for nearly five minutes.

When he returned, the Red Wolves began a 15-4 spurt and took complete control of a game that they looked poise to seize long before.

"My coaches always tell me I'm strong [and can score]," said Omier, who set up a pair of three-pointers with skip passes from the post. "They always tell me to take my time, guard someone, don't pick up more fouls and just slow down."

The Eagles didn't get back within single digits, but Georgia Southern (7-6, 0-2) didn't leave Jonesboro without making a little noise.

The visitors got chippy after Avery Felts was fouled making a layup with six seconds remaining, and some chatter following the whistle drew double technicals. Then, after the final horn had sounded and the teams headed to the locker rooms without shaking hands, a Georgia Southern assistant coach confronted Balado by the ASU bench.

Balado quickly shooed him back toward the Eagles' locker room, turning to the home crowd to fire them up before heading down the tunnel.

"I just told my guys they've got to have composure," Balado said. "They're frustrated, they're down 26, so they're going to start trying to do some stuff. Our guys aren't going to back down -- we just have to be a little smarter about it."

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