Scratching and crawling
Ball State has had a history of close games this season, and Tuesday was no different. The Cardinals have trailed at some point in five of their six conference wins this season. Ball State started the game, and it appeared they couldn’t buy a bucket.
The Cardinals were 2-for-15 from the field at the under-12 media timeout. Points were coming at a premium for Ball State but not so much for the Golden Flashes. Kent State got to 20 points before the Cardinals were able to scratch double figures.
Ball State was trying to feed redshirt senior forward Tahjai Teague the ball, but the Golden Flashes defended the paint well, only allowing a total of 18 points down low on the evening. The Cardinals were able to crawl their way back into the game through the likes of redshirt sophomore forward Miryne Thomas, who delivered two timely 3-point baskets to shift the momentum in Ball State’s favor.
Dismantling defensive effort
Setting the tone on defense was something that, when executed well, the Cardinals have been successful with. In their tilt against the Golden Flashes, Ball State was able to hold them to fewer than 55 points, something that has been accomplished by this squad three times this season. This is also the Cardinals' second straight game where they have held their opponent to fewer that 55 points. They held Ohio to 54 points Saturday.
Coming into its lone matchup this season, Kent State had five players who average in double figures. Ball State was able to keep them in check, only allowing senior forward Philip Whittington and sophomore guard Anthony Roberts to score in double figures.
The Cardinal defense was also able to hold a team that averages 35 percent from beyond the arc to just five percent on one make out of 20 attempts. While the Cardinals lost the rebounding battle, they were able to make up for it by defending jump shots.
Sharing the love
Teague, who leads the Cardinals in scoring, did not find the bottom of the net until 16 minutes into the first half of play. Ball State had already begun their comeback effort, and he was adding fuel to it.
The Cardinals had to find different ways to get the ball to the nylon against the Golden Flashes. During the first-half comeback, it wasn’t one player that was doing all of the heavy lifting, but an offensive team effort allowed the Cardinals to be successful in the closing minutes of the first half. In fact, no player for Ball State reached double figures by halftime.
Junior guard Ishmael El-Amin contributed with a dunk to close the gap to eight points with less than five minutes to go until the half. Redshirt freshman forward Kani Acree delivered two made free throws and a layup that extended the Ball State lead to two points with two-and-a-half minutes to play until the break.
The Cardinals continued to pass the ball and find the open look, which resulted in points and a comeback victory. It was the unselfish play that let the Cardinals get back into the game. Five assists by different contributors on the floor were the driving force behind their success late in the first half.
Contact Grant Covey with comments at email@example.com or on Twitter @grant_covey.