Conor Hockett

At times, the Ball State offense is hard to figure out.

A 20-7 run to open Tuesday's game against Texas Southern was Ball State at its best. Off nearly every miss, Ball State used secondary breaks to get out in transition for easy shots including an up-and-under reverse slam by senior forward Jarrod Jones.

During the first half, the Cardinals ran efficient offense and played unselfishly. The team had 12 assists on 13 made baskets. Coach Billy Taylor said ball movement against Texas Southern's zone opened up good looks.

"I thought we had a lot of extra passes," Taylor said. "Guys had a shot, turned it down, and gave it to an open teammate for an even more open look. That's really what we've been preaching. It really went all around — all our guards did it. We got interior touches and the ball moved. I didn't think we had too much trouble against the zone."

The team opened up the second half on a 12-0 run in similar fashion, but it didn't last. After the spurt, Ball State players stopped running and the ball didn't move as much.

Ball State overcame its struggles to win 64-53.

Taylor said the transition game stopped because the team is still developing its conditioning. After that, the half court offense began to struggle.

"In the second half with about seven minutes to go we decided to pull it out and use the clock," Taylor said. "But our offense stalled. We didn't score as much over a three to four minute span."

The lapse in offense, along with 16 turnovers by Ball State, made the margin of victory closer than it should have been.

Sophomore guard Jesse Berry said the Tigers athleticism created some problems for the Cardinals.

"They are a really long lengthy team," Berry said. "They got in passing lanes and used their length against us. The pressure was there and they're pretty good with their 1-2-2 defense coming up. They got a few deflections that broke us down a little bit."

Berry and Jones led the Cardinals in scoring with 14 points each.

Offensive inconsistencies for Ball State didn't transfer to the defensive end. Texas Southern wasn't able to break down or solve Ball State's man-to-man defense all game.

"I thought tonight was really about our defense," Taylor said. "It really stood strong for us especially in the half court. Primarily they were able to score in transition and off offensive rebounds."

Junior guard Omar Strong was the one exception. He led the Tigers in scoring with 19 points including five 3-pointers.

Ball State stretched the lead to 24 at points in the second half and Taylor said he'd like to see his team mature and conserve those leads.

"It was the closest we've been all year [to a 40 minute effort]," Taylor said. "I really thought overall our effort was pretty good. We'd like to see that lead go from 15 back to 20 instead of 15 to 11 or nine. But I was very pleased with our effort."