The Cardinals came out swinging in the first half, downing 4-10 shots from deep just over the halfway point, highlighted by two back-to-back three-point scoring sequences.
However, as the game went on, the team began to run out of steam, due to fouling and injury. No.4 Bowling Green (21-11, 12-6 MAC) took advantage of the situation to hand No. 11 Ball State Men's Basketball (16-17, 6-12 MAC) a season ending loss in the Mid-American Conference quarterfinals, 99-86.
"That's the best we've play on offense for a while," head coach James Whitford said. "I thought our guys competed. We couldn't get a stop and Bowling Green had a lot to do with that. Both teams played well, made a lot of shots and it was really hard for us to get stops."
What really haunted the Cardinals was their game in transition. The Falcons knocked in 22 points off turnovers to Ball State's six. In addition, Bowling Green went on numerous scoring runs as large as 17-4. A lost tooth from redshirt junior guard K.J. Walton and four fouls from senior center Trey Moses and redshirt junior forward Tahjai Teague limited shortened the bench as well.
"After he [Walton] got hit in the mouth and lost his tooth, he was in a lot of pain and not himself," Whitford said. "I thought as the game went on, they [Bowling Green] were able to keep their guys as 23, 25, 26 minutes. It was such an uptempo game and there were so many possessions. As the game ran down, I thought we ran out of gas."
First half saw Ball State come out ready to compete. Heavy three shooting from the team propelled them to a slim 33-30 lead just over the halfway point. However, a three ball Bowling Green's Dawqwon Plowden shifted the momentum hard. That what spark a 29-13 run from the Falcons to end the half. Moses was sitting at three fouls with five minutes left in the half.
Second half saw Bowling Green take over for good. A 15-8 break for the Falcons to start the half would set the Cardinals back. Ball State was hungry for the three, but couldn't hit in the second half as they went 2-11 from deep in the second frame. Bowling Green would build a lead as high as 18 to eventually end the Cardinals season.
After only losing by one the last time Ball State face Bowling Green, Whitford said that the postseason beings a completely different mentality to every team.
"I think both teams recognized that the stakes were high," Whitford said. "They were intense. We we're ins-tense. It's a one and done."
In the loss, in his final game, redshirt senior guard Tayler Persons lead in points (25) and assists (7). Junior forward Kyle Mallers lead on the boards with seven. Ball State finishes at 16-17 overall and 6-12 in the MAC, the first time since 2015 that Ball State has finished under .500.
The team will lose three players in coming season in Persons, Moses and senior guard Austin Nehls. As he gives his final words as a Cardinal, a teary eyed Persons knew he and his fellow seniors left it all out there.
"A loss is a loss," Persons said. "All I know is that we [Persons and Moses} left it all out there along with the entire team...even if I did perform well, it doesn't make the loss easier."
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