This wasn’t just an opener for Ball State Men’s Basketball. This was a new beginning for six new players who saw their first minutes at the collegiate level.
This year’s Cardinal squad is one head coach James Whitford said wants to shoot at a much higher level, and two of its freshmen lived up to those expectations in Ball State’s 87-43 victory over Defiance.
Freshman guard Lucas Kroft and last season’s Indiana Mr. Basketball finalist Luke Bumbalough provided a spark from deep, as Kroft made two threes, and Bumbalough shot 3-for-5 from beyond the arc.
“We wanted more shooting,” Whitford said. “We needed more shooting, and those guys both are really good shooters and good players in general, so that certainly helps.”
Bumbalough not only provided a lift from three, but he also acted as a facilitator on the floor, making the right reads to the roll man on offense and did not commit a turnover.
“I feel like [I] keep getting in the lane, putting guys in a position to score,” Bumbalough said. “Our team is really good, and everyone has the capability and different strengths, so just find their strengths and put everybody in the position to score.”
He did a solid job on the timing of his passes, hitting the roll man leading to easy buckets for the Cardinals.
“He made good decisions,” Whitford said. “A couple of times, he did a good job hitting the roll guy, and he had three assists and no turnovers, which are good numbers.
For many players taking the hardwood for the first time at the college level, the nerves may take a few games to reside. For Bumbalough, they appeared to leave the minute he stepped on the floor, and he credits his team for that.
“It feels good getting my first collegiate game out of the way and getting in a rhythm,” Bumbalough said. “Trying not to play nervous or anything. I got my jitters out early, and our team is really cohesive and positive, so it was easy to play out there with them.”
While Kroft missed his first three shots from deep, he came out of the half and made a positive impact, making two from long range.
“Those first two shots felt as good as the ones I made because right when they left my hands, they felt good,” Kroft said. “Coach had talked to us about trying to find the right shots in the second half, and I think we found the right shots in the second half, and having the right mindset helped those shots go in.”
Kroft said he believes his ability to space the floor helps impact the team positively, and it will allow the team to get easier buckets in the paint because the opposing defense will be focused on the perimeter.
“Bringing out my 3-point shooting, and having the ability to be able to space out the floor and have others just create shots for me will be the biggest asset to the team,” Kroft said.
For the young guys, watching their threes fall through the hoop has given them a sense of optimism going into the season.
“Sometimes you have days where it doesn’t fall and days where it does, so it was nice to see it go in, and it just gives you a little confidence and will help me play better,” Bumbalough said.
Contact Ian Hansen with comments at email@example.com or on Twitter @ianh_2.