Arkansas State head coach John Brady says he knew three shots into the Red Wolves game against lower division Southern Arkansas that his team weren’t as mentally into the game as they were their first exhibition.
I doubt he was thinking they’d actually lose.
Arkansas State shot just 31% from the floor, 6-26 from three-point range, and allowed the game-winning basket on a floater at the buzzer, falling 69-67.
That might not be completely good news for UT Martin.
Of course, the Red Wolves are in a rebuilding mode, not returning a single starter from last year’s 19-win campaign, losing in all seven of their top eight players. They will feature a unique challenge for the Skyhawks — something they didn’t see at Marquette: size. 6’9 Kelvin Downs is the team’s only experienced returner in the frontcourt, but he’ll be matched with JUCO transfers Nouhoum Bocoum, who’s 6’10, plus Anthony Livinston and Ronnie White, both 6’9.
The backcourt is all new. 6’5 wing Sean Gardner, and 5’10 guard P.J. Harwick were with the program last year — but were redshirted, and the Red Wolves brought in a few JUCO players here as well to fill the holes. One guy to watch for is Cameron Golden who hit seven three’s in Arkansas State’s other exhibition game.
UT Martin’s offense was solid in their loss at Marquette, save for 19 turnovers, including six from UNLV transfer Deville Smith. Myles Taylor has a magnificat night, before fouling out after just 15 minutes, and scoring was balanced, with seven guys contributing six or more points. They also outrebounded Marquette — but again, Marquette doesn’t have the Red Wolves size. (That’s weird to type…)
Vegas has the Red Wolves as narrow favorites — meaning they feel these teams would be about equal on a neutral floor.
The Skyhawks have to take advantage of offensive opportunities, and need to put more pressure on the Red Wolves ball handlers; UT Martin forced just seven turnovers two nights ago. But this is an opportunity to show where they stand against a team that’s on part with what the Skyhawks will see in the OVC. We should learn a little about UTM’s chances in the OVC tonight — though there’s plenty of games before we get to the heart of the season.