Ball State guard Taylor Persons sweeps past IUPUI guard Kellon Thomas on Saturday, December 3 at Worthen Arena. The Cardinals lost to the Jaguars 73-62. Grace Hollars//DN
Sloppy second half costs Ball State men's basketball against IUPUI
With 11:50 left in the second half, Ball State senior forward Ryan Weber went up for a seemingly easy layup.
After missing, he pleaded to the referee the whole way down the court, saying he was fouled on the head. On the ensuing play, Weber was called for a foul that gave IUPUI the basket and a trip to the free throw line.
That seemed to be the turning point in the game for the Cardinals, who were in the midst of a five-and-a-half minute field goal drought. At one point Ball State (4-4) led by 11 but the lead dwindled and eventually the team trailed by 11 in a 73-62 loss to IUPUI (3-5) Dec. 3 at Worthen Arena.
Ball State game leaders:
Points: Francis Kiapway (14)
Rebounds: Trey Moses (10)
Assists: Tayler Persons (5)
Turnovers: Tayler Persons Franko House (4)
IUPUI game leaders:
Points: Darell Combs (21)
Rebounds: D.J. McCall (13)
Assists: Kellon Thomas (5)
Turnovers: Matt O'Leary (3)
Head coach James Whitford said he thought those kind of plays seemed to be the story of his team in the second half.
"The game's too fast, you got to go the next play," Whitford said. "I don’t care if you got hit or not. It doesn’t matter.”
The Cardinals showed no signs of their eventual downfall in the first half, shooting 48 percent from the field and 37 percent from the three point line, leading 36-29 at the break.
But Whitford said his team's defensive collapse and its inability to handle the trap in the post position cost them the game.
"The fact that we wouldn’t have handled their post trap better is alarming to me,” Whitford said. "It completely eliminated our inside play."
Whitford said his team spent all week preparing for the post trap, including at shoot around the day of, but it became too much to handle. Ball State was outscored 30-26 in the paint.
Senior IUPUI guard Darell Combs also exploded in the second half, scoring 17 of his game-high 21 points.
"He got hot and put us in a tough position," redshirt sophomore guard Tayler Persons said.
Junior guard Francis Kiapway led the Cardinals in scoring with 14 points, followed by sophomore center Trey Moses with 13.
Whitford said he was disappointed in the way his team has been playing as of late.
“The reality is we're not playing well right now," Whitford said. "It's not like a bad game. At this point, we're not good right now. That’s a fact."
While Whitford was less than pleased, the Cardinals did have some high points in the game, including seven rebounds and three blocks from redshirt freshman forward Tahjai Teague.
But seven missed free throws, a 33 percent second-half field goal percentage and 17 IUPUI points off turnovers proved to be too much for the Cardinals.
Ball State is now 1-3 against Indiana teams. The team's lone win came against IU-Kokomo after losing to both Indiana State and Valparaiso.
"This is tough to swallow, losing to three teams that are from Indiana," Persons said. "But we've got to stay the course, trust our coaches, trust our team."
Ball State falls to .500 on the season after eight games. Whitford said the month of December, which includes four more home games, will be crucial to the progression of his team.
"It’s a long season — we still have plenty of time, but we have some real warts we got to correct," Whitford said. "This is a really really, really critical month for us to get better.”