The aspect of mentality in sports has been said to be key in the success of an athlete or team. Staying focused and positive brings a winning result.
After dropping a competitive contest to Miami (10-9, 2-4 MAC), 71-65, Ball State Men's Basketball (11-8, 2-4 MAC) has dropped four of its last five only a quarter of a way through a competitive MAC schedule. With being so close, but so far, the Cardinals aren't letting their record get to them.
"We just gotta stay with it," redshirt senior guard Tayler Persons said. "Let's be honest, a lot of us are down. We're 2-4 and we've lost two games at home and that's not where we plan to be. That's just life, man, and we have a lot of games left and a lot of opportunities."
In a conference where any team can win any day, head coach James Whitford is motivating his team to not get upset over a conference loss. While Ball State was a nine point favorite heading into the game, Whitford said that the RedHawk squad's record did not reflect the talent and competitiveness that they brought to the court.
"I told my players that you can't feel sorry for yourselves," Whitford said. "This is, in my opinion, the best team I've coached at Miami and it doesn't feel that way based on our 2-4 record. There's no question that we need Ish and Brachen back, and we're going to get them back. However, in that time we need to win as may as we can."
Memories of the two team's last matchup we're on display as well. Almost a year ago to the day, the Cardinals were on the tail end of a 18 point blow out to the RedHawks in Oxford where senior Darrian Ringo and junior Bam Bowman combined for 33 points on Ball State. Tonight, the duo struck again seeing Ringo with 15 and Bowman with 16. Both averaged out for a 65 percent accuracy from field goal range in the matchup.
"He [Bowman] and Ringo were a lethal combination," Whitford said. "Ringo is so fast and such a good passer and Bowman can roll and pop. The three that Dalonte Brown hit late was a result of that Bowman pick and roll. Coming into this game, we were really well aware of those two."
Like the majority of the game, from tipoff, the two teams remained close. Redshirt junior guard K.J. Walton would flex early, going 4-4 from field goal range for eight points around the midway point. However, the Cardinals continuously were chasing a lead due to Miami's red hot three-point shooting. The RedHawks would down 6-13 in the first half with Brown going 3-4 from deep. A sequence would see a Persons three and a Walton dunk put the Cardinals down by two, but a three from Bowman at the horn would put the RedHawks up, 40-33 at the half.
"You don't control how you shoot in a game," Whitford said. "You don't have anyone who goes out on game day and intends on missing. The only thing you control is how you practice. The other thing you control is taking good shots. Are you locking in on taking good shots?"
The second half saw the game continue to stay close, but the scoring to die down on both sides of the ball. The Cardinals would go scoreless for over three minutes in just over the halfway point, allowing Miami to jump ahead by four. A layup by redshirt junior guard Tahjai Teague would pull the Cardinals within two, but a late shot from Brown from deep would allow Miami to sail to a win.
"I thought it was a really hard fought game," Whitford said. "I thought we really competed and got our way back into the game. We really struggled to make shots, and credit to them defensively. I thought both teams were ready to and it's obviously a disappointing loss for us."
In the loss, the Cardinals shot for a low 1-11 from outside the arc. Walton was slowed in the second half to finish with 16 points with Teague following with 15. The team held the advantage in second chance points with 16 to Miami's two and capitalizing off of turnovers with 19 points knocked in.
The Cardinals head back on the road for two tough matchups against Ohio and No. 14 Buffalo. The Bobcats throttled the Cardinals by 18 in their last meeting as the Cardinals head to Athens on Saturday. In one of their most challenging matchups of the season, the Cardinals face a two-loss Bulls squad coming off an upset loss to Northern Illinois.
"I'm the leader of the team and I'm not going to let anybody be sad or feel sorry for ourselves that we're 2-4," Persons said. "We're telling the fans to stay with us and it's a battle every game. We're not going to let this record bring us down."
Contact Jack Williams with any comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jackgwilliams.