“With that bucket, Ball State, now within eight, but then Coleman fouls Maddox on the three-point line."
This is how this afternoon’s contest went. After a slow start due to poor shooting, 10-for-32 FG (31 percent) and 2-for-12 3PT (16 percent) in the first half, Ball State was unable to dig themselves out of the hole.
The Cardinals (19-8, 10-4) fell to the Western Michigan Broncos (7-20, 3-11) by ten points.
Head coach Michael Lewis believes his squad didn’t come out to play the right way, and Western Michigan did.
“We just came out and were really, really soft.” he said. “I mean, we're dropping balls early, putting the ball plain above our head and just habits that have slipped over the course of season. When you're going to win games and try to compete for a championship, you just can't have those. If you're a casual observer you'd have thought Western Michigan was a team that was in a championship race, not us.”
Lewis adds that the team that sets the tone from the beginning runs the game.
“I thought they were the more physical team, they were better prepared. They took it to us from the beginning.” he said. “We talked about the toughest team sets the rules and we kind of tiptoed into this game and didn't have our fight, so they just took it to us.”
In the second half, Ball State came with more of a fight and more efficient shooting, improving to 45 percent FG (13-for-29) and 38.5 percent 3PT (5-for-13). However, poor defensive execution mixed with ten turnovers halted a comeback.
On the bright side, the Cardinals were able to shoot efficiently from the charity stripe, going 15-for-18 (83.3 percent), their second-highest percentage of the season.
Sophomore guard Jaylin Sellers was Ball State’s leading scorer with 22 points to go with five rebounds. He remained aggressive all game and finished multiple dunks, including this fastbreak flush.
Despite this performance, the rest of the team couldn’t pick it up.
“[Jaylin Sellers] competed. I thought he was one of the few guys that competed.” Lewis said. “I thought we got a better effort out of some guys in the second half, but we just continually got beat one on one off the bounce. We just, we weren't in it. We couldn't go from huddle to the court and execute.”
With this loss, the Cardinals have their six-game winning streak snapped, with the last defeat coming Jan. 24 to Buffalo. Lewis knows his team has been here before and hopes they respond the same way they have all season.
“You hope that you've got the same character in the locker room that they've had all year, you've gotta hope that they reflect,” he said. “You're gonna watch this and it's not going to be pretty and you realize that they've got the same character they had a couple of weeks ago when they responded and you hope for a response.”
Ball State returns home to Worthen to take on conference leader Kent State (22-5, 12-2 MAC) on Feb. 21.