Norchad Omier poured in a career high 35 points and added 13 rebounds for another double-double as the Arkansas State men’s basketball team rallied back to down ULM 81-77 Thursday in the first round of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament at the Pensacola Bay Center.
Omier scored 22 of his career-high 35 points in the second half, including six of the eight in an 8-0 run that gave A-State (18-10) the lead in the final two minutes. Dropping 35 points, Omier becomes the 12th player in program history to post 35 or more points in a single game. It is the 34th occasion in which an A-State player has scored 35 or more points.
Draining four clutch free throws late, Marquis Eaton finished with 13 points and a game-high five assists. Malcolm Farrington was 3-of-4 beyond the arc and finished with 11 points and two key steals while Desi Sills added 10 points and eight boards. Andre Jones had 24 points to pace ULM (13-18).
A-State led 5-2 early, but three-point shooting helped the Warhawks lead over the majority of the first half. ULM was 5-of-9 (.556) beyond the arc and shot 57 percent (17-30) from the field in the first half. A 9-0 run late in the first half saw the Warhawks take their largest lead of the frame, but a Farrington 3-pointer as time expired saw A-State trail by only three, 42-39, at the break.
The Red Wolves opened the second half on a 13-5 spurt to lead 52-47 with 16:23 to play. ULM answered with a 16-4 spurt to lead 63-56 with 9:10 remaining. A 6-0 run cut the deficit to one, but the Warhawks scored the next four to lead by five, 67-62 with 5:44 left. The two teams traded 3-point makes and ULM went on to lead 72-66 with 4:24 left. Omier converted back-to-back buckets, including a dunk, and Farrington added a pair of free throws to mark a 6-0 spurt that tied the game at 72 with 2:45 to play.
Omier extended the run to 8-0 with a layup, but ULM tied the score once against with a fall away jumper. Eaton sank a pull-up jumper at the right elbow with the shot clock expiring to give A-State the lead for good with 1:10 to play. Defensive stops down the stretch and free throws down the stretch led to the 81-77 margin.
ULM finished 52.5 percent (31-59) from the field, including 9-of-18 (.500) beyond the arc. A-State hit 45 percent (27-60) from the field, including 6-of-15 (.400) from 3-point range. The Red Wolves were 21-of-29 (.720) at the charity stripe while the Warhawks were 6-of-9 (.667) at the line.
Behind 13 boards from Omier, A-State held a 42-25 edge on the glass. The Red Wolves used a 15-4 advantage in offensive rebounds to outscore the Warhawks 19-9 in second chance points.
A-State advances to play Georgia State in the quarterfinals Saturday at 5:00 p.m. on ESPN+ and the EAB Red Wolves Sports Network.