MEN'S BASKETBALL: Cardinals season ends with semifinal loss in Cleveland
Team falls one game short of MAC championship game, building for future
CLEVELAND — At times, the Cardinals' mix of youth and experience was its biggest strength in the Mid-American Conference Tournament.
At times, it was its greatest weakness.
Fourth-seeded Ball State pulled off an overtime thriller in its first game against fifth-seeded Ohio, 76-73. However, Ball State's run came to a close in the semifinals against top-seeded Kent State, losing 79-68.
"I'm exceptionally proud of this team," coach Billy Taylor said after the loss to Kent State. "It's always hard when your season comes to an end, but I am really proud of what these guys have accomplished. To come from where they have come from and accomplished what they did it is a reflection of their character and commitment."
Leading the Cardinals in their first game, freshman Jesse Berry scored a career-high 20 points, shooting lights out from behind the 3-point line and finishing 5-for-9 from the field.
Down nine with 2:42 left in the game, the Cardinals mounted a comeback to send the game in overtime, eventually pulling out a victory.
In Ball State's second game, MAC Player of the Year Justin Greene and the rest of the Kent State squad proved to be too big and fast for Ball State.
After having one of his best games of the season the night before, freshman Tyrae Robinson had five costly turnovers, one of which led to a breakaway layup for Kent State and started a 7-2 run that put the game away.
The Cardinals were outrebounded 40-22 and allowed 50 points in the paint.
"I think [Kent State] did a great job of crashing the glass one through five," Jarrod Jones said. "Their guards [and] bigs rebounded. They were doing a good job of being consistent and crashing the glass."
Jones averaged 15.5 points and 9.5 rebounds in the tournament and was named to the MAC All-Tournament team.
He posted his 11th double-double of the season against Kent State, scoring 22 points and pulling down 11 boards.
Taylor said the underclassman made a lot of progress from the beginning of the year.
"For a lot of this tournament four of our top eight guys were freshmen, they were playing a lot of minutes," he said. "There were a number of times we had four freshmen on the floor. That's a strong statement about where this program is."