Despite Ball State Men’s Basketball losing to Division II Michigan Tech, head coach James Whitford said he and his team are not panicking.
The Cardinals fell to Michigan Tech 70-69 in the only exhibition game of the season so their record remains 0-0.
“I thought we'll learn from it,” Whitford said. “I just told the team in the locker room, ‘It isn’t my first loss to division II. I’ve lost at Miami, Xavier, Arizona, every level I've ever been this time of year. You just sometimes you deal with situations like we did tonight. No one here panic.”
Ball State was down by as many as 12 points in the game and Michigan Tech put up a barrage of 3-pointers. They had constant movement on offense through off-ball screens and consistent ball movement.
“What you can really sense is just how well they played together,” Whitford said. They're very good at what they do. We played this game for a reason. We played this game because I knew it would really test us. I wanted to get through the kind of nerves of playing under the lights.”
After going 10-13 last season, the Cardinals brought in six new faces all of which saw playing time. They were led by junior guard Tyler Cochran with 13 points. He used his speed to move down the court and apply pressure inside.
Ball State came back after a double-digit deficit and had the opportunity to win. While Cochran missed the final shot, he said it felt good to be back out competing.
“It felt good,” Cochran said. “It felt good to finally get out there with the guys and go out and compete at a high level. I am very excited for what is to come.”
Part of the reason Ball State was able to come back after being down by as much as they were was due to the fact they started pressing, which forced multiple turnovers by Michigan Tech.
“They really force you to focus,” Whitford said. “You could see the difference in athleticism when we started to press. It really changed the dynamics of the game. We could have done that for 40 minutes, but that is not how we play.”
Junior guard Luke Bumbalough was second in scoring with 12 points. Part of the reason Ball State came back, in the end, was in large part because of his play in the final minutes. He hit a three and scored a layup, plus the foul. He said the Cardinals’ loss was not the result he wanted but knows it is only up.
“It felt good [to get in rhythm],” Bumbalough said. “It wasn’t the outcome we wanted, but it was good to feel the energy, and we will get back to work tomorrow. It is a learning experience. It felt good to have that energy in the gym.”
Ball State opens the season against Georgia Southern on the road to open the season Tuesday, Nov. 9 at 7 p.m.
“This game was about getting better,” Whitford said. “They really challenge you to focus and concentrate and communicate defensively. We got exposed in a lot of different ways, and it is honestly the best thing to happen. It is a great lesson for us.”
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