Throughout the early season, it's been a game of halves for Ball State Men's Basketball (5-4, 0-0 MAC). Against Evansville and Loyola Chicago, Ball State floundered in the first half but would rally in the second. However, the imbalance set the Cardinals too far back for a win.
Saturday, Ball State felt its strongest sense of completion in a dominating effort over IUPUI (2-8, 0-0 Horizon), 102-54. Ball State saw 10 players contribute to the scoring effort, breaking five players into double figures. The win was also Ball State's largest margin of victory this season, cementing a 48-point spread.
"I thought we played a really complete game for 40 minutes today, probably the most complete game we've played on both sides of the ball," head coach James Whitford said. "During the course of the year, we've been pretty feast or famine. We've had moments that have been really good and moments that haven't been. I watched [IUPUI] play a lot of good teams, and no one has dismantled them to the level that we did today."
The triple-digit team performance was highlighted by redshirt freshman guard Jarron Coleman, who knocked down a career-high 20 points. He was followed by junior guard Ishmael El-Amin, who picked up 18 points in the win. This is the third-straight game El-Amin has scored 18 points or more.
Along with strong performances from El-Amin and Coleman, Ball State saw some new faces lead the way. Freshman guard Luke Bumbalough picked up his second double-digit scoring game of the year with 12 points, shooting 4-of-9 from beyond the arc and leading the team in minutes with 28. Redshirt freshman guard Kani Acree tied senior forward Kyle Mallers in scoring with 11. Redshirt junior forward Brachen Hazen had a quiet eight points and a career-high six assists.
"There's a lot of differences in depth coming off the bench, as a lot of those guys don't have a lot of experience," Whitford said. "Luke had 12 points, one assist and no turnovers, but you could sense that he's still a little jittery with his decision making. It's about not letting a good play or bad play getting into your head. You could say that about all-out young guys. It was good to see everyone get out there tonight."
In addition to sharing the love across the roster, the Cardinals have also been experimental with their starting lineups this season. Saturday, redshirt seniors guard Josh Thompson and forward Tahjai Teague were switched out for Coleman and Hazen. Bumbalough also made his second-straight appearance in the starting five. The team believes there is some benefit in getting the bench experience in starting roles.
"It's about finding the right group of guys," El-Amin said. "At the end of the day, we just have to go with the roles that [Whitford] gives us and be ready to play."
In having the younger core of the team finish strong, Whitford said he is looking for that success to remain consistent. The Ball State bench outscored IUPUI's, 33-7, breaking one of those players into double figures.
"We've had moments of really, really good basketball, and we've had moments of not really good basketball at all," Whitford said. "Our job, with time, is to become more consistent in the way that we are playing. I don't think it's abnormal, but it's something that we need to get corrected for us."
Specifically, Acree's performance stood out to the team as a statement to its overall depth. In his 21 minutes of play, alongside his 11 points, Acree shot 4-of-4 from the foul line, recorded three rebounds, two assists and one of just about everything else.
"You could see it when Kani came in and provided with a spark," El-Amin said. "Ben [Hendricks] came in and showed that he could rebound. We're excited for our young guys, and they're continuing to get better each day."
Other standouts included Teague, who shined on the defensive end with a career-high six blocks and led Ball State with six rebounds. Thompson tied his season high for 3-pointers made with two in the second half.
The Jaguars were hurt by fouling, as Isaiah Williams and Marcus Burk would be forced to sit after committing five. The team finished with 23 fouls on the day. Jaylen Minnett led IUPUI with 17 points in the loss. The Jaguars narrowly fell to the Cardinals in rebounding, as Ball State held the edge, 38-35.
Heading out of this game, the Cardinals have a week off before taking on Georgia Tech Dec. 18 in Atlanta. Whitford said redshirt senior guard K.J. Walton is expected to return later this month after suffering an ankle injury against Northern Kentucky Nov. 20.
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