It's what the Cardinals did for the final seven minutes riding a 16-4 scoring run to pull the team within one point of the RedHawks. However, the late game surge wasn't enough to get the Cardinals out of the early hole they dug, as Ball State Men's Basketball (14-12, 5-8 MAC) would fall to Miami (Ohio) (14-12, 6-7 MAC), 69-66.
"I thought our guys were resilient," head coach James Whitford said. "It was a well-fought game and I thought our guys competed all the way through. We gave ourselves cracks to win."
While the comeback was close, the team's slow start in the first and second half was one of the factors that set the team back.
Miami went on runs in both the first and second half giving the team the heavy advantage. The first saw the Cardinals hold a slim lead before Miami went on a 10-0 run for the lead. In the second, the RedHawks would once again outscore the Cardinals, 12-3, out of the locker room to push their lead to 15.
"I thought in the beginning especially we were really impatient on offense," Whitford said. "The slow start might have contributed a little bit, but winning on the road is hard. I thought we had strong improvements on defense in the second half, Brachen gave us a lift."
First half saw the Cardinals jump out to an early 2-0 off of a layup from junior forward Kyle Mallers, but Miami would surge pulling into a 21-14 lead around the halfway point of the first. Cardinals struggled inside the paint in first as they would see 12-30 fall their way.
"They're not the most athletic team or the biggest team," senior center Trey Moses said. "It was just one of those things where you would miss shots. It was just one of those games for us...I think it was one of those games where things didn't go our way, and we need to bounce back."
Coming out of halftime down 41-35, it wouldn't get any better for Ball State, as Miami would go on a run to start the second half. A layup from redshirt sophomore guard Brachen Hazen would snap the drought. The Cardinals would bring the lead down to 10 before Miami would pull away again.
With the RedHawks up by 15, the tides began to turn off of a layup by redshirt senior guard Tayler Persons. The Cardinals would start a run of their own amounting to 16 points highlighted by a dunk from Hazen. As it came down to the final minute, the Cardinals were still chasing a slim lead. Miami would go 4-0 at the line and Persons' three-point attempt to tie would fall short handing the Cardinals the loss.
"Our team just wanted to win," Persons said. "We knew how big this game was and unfortunately, we didn't win it. We know our guys stepped up defensively. I thought our bench played great. It's a tough L."
In the loss, the Cardinals broke two into double figures seeing Persons with 16 and redshirt junior guard K.J. Walton with 11. Redshirt junior forward Tahjai Teague struggled throughout, going 1-10 from close to finish with five points. Miami broke three into double figures seeing Nike Sinbade lead the way with 17.
In the overall standings, the loss ties the Cardinals for ninth with five games left in the season. They sit one game behind a three-way race for sixth and two games for fifth. While the clock is ticking down on the regular season, the team has a short-term focus.
"We just focused on the next day," Whitford said. "Just get better Thursday, Friday and Saturday."
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