It had been 10 days since the Cardinals had played a game due to postponements regarding COVID-19.
Ball State Men’s Basketball (7-10, 5-7 MAC) was finally set free to play a basketball game, and rust overshadowed it. After beating Bowling Green (12-9, 8-7 MAC) 88-64 on Jan. 12, the Falcons came back with revenge to defeat the Cardinals’ 75-62.
“Being off, I think we were a little rusty,” redshirt fifth-year K.J. Walton said. “I think getting back to practice and watching the film and cleaning up the mistakes.”
Ball State went into halftime with a 35-34 lead, but the turning point was a 14-2 run in the second half, putting the Falcons up by as many as 16 points.
Bowling Green’s defense forced Ball State to 23 turnovers on the game and held them to just eight percent shooting from three.
“Their trap hurt us a little bit,” Walton said. “We handled it well in the first half, but in the second half, we were basically throwing it to them. They were speeding us up, so it was those two things combined.”
Toughness and physicality were some of the factors Whitford attributed to the loss. The Cardinals allowed Bowling Green to the free-throw line 12 times in the second half, while Ball State didn’t shoot a single free throw.
“Their defensive toughness is what I thought contributed to it for sure,” Whitford said. “That press they had bothered us way more than it should have. That is something I am confident we will handle better in the future.”
Bowling Green was led by Justin Turner, who scored 27 points, three rebounds and assists. Kaden Matheny scored 21 points and made four 3-pointers.
“They go through him,” Walton said. “I know he is going to shoot a lot of shots. They were getting a lot of mismatches, so they would screen guard to guard. They will switch off, which is not a matchup we want. We wanted to keep me on him.”
Ball State’s leading scorers were redshirt sophomore guard Jarron Coleman, senior guard Ishmael El-Amin and Walton, who all scored 11 points.
Ball State returned Walton, who hadn’t played since Jan. 23 in a loss to Ohio. The Cardinals’ have had to deal with a lot of parity in the rotation this year due to COVID-19.
“We have been good dealing with it all year,” Whitford said. “We are constantly rebuilding our team. We are doing that again tonight. With that being said, we had a week of practice. We should have been better, in my opinion, and we weren’t tonight. I think the chemistry of the team is good, and we are trying to the right things, but that doesn’t always mean it works.”
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