Ball State plays against Ohio on Feb. 10 in Worthen Arena. The Cardinals lost 77-79 against the Bobcats.
RECAP: Ball State men's basketball nearly overcomes 25-point deficit in loss to Ohio
What looked like a blowout ended up coming down to the last shot.
Ball State men's basketball (15-10, 6-6 Mid-American Conference) worked a 73-72 lead over Ohio (15-8, 7-5 MAC) with 4:21 to go after trailing by as many as 25 points late in the first half, but couldn't complete the comeback in its 79-77 loss Feb. 10.
"The first 30 minutes were amazing the way we started the game," head coach James Whitford said. "I guess the story of the game was we didn't come ready for whatever reason."
Ball State stats:
Field goal percentage: 43.9
3-point percentage: 47.8
Leading scorer: Trey Moses - 17
Field goal percentage: 50.0
3-point percentage: 44.4
Leading scorer: Jordan Dartis - 16
The Bobcats stretched out a 46-21 lead with 3:13 left in the first half behind 62.1 percent shooting and 58.3 percent from beyond the arc, though the Cardinals finished with a 9-2 run to head into the half, down 49-30.
"In the second half we obviously played the game the right way," Whitford said. "We made some shots, we locked in on playing the right way, and defensively we had great energy."
Ball State and Ohio traded points for the first six minutes of the second until freshman forward Kyle Mallers was fouled on a 3-point attempt with the Cardinals trailing 60-44 and 13:51 on the clock.
Mallers hit all three free throws to jumpstart a 20-6 run that erased the deficit, ending after junior Sean Sellers hit a 3-pointer to put the Cardinals down by just 2 points with 7:32 remaining, 66-64.
"I thought [Mallers] gave us a huge lift in the game," Whitford said. "The guy who helped us the most on defense was Kyle Mallers. I thought that was the biggest difference in the game."
Mallers averages 10.7 minutes per game but played 18 against the Bobcats, in part because senior forward Franko House fouled out with 8:09 remaining. Mallers finished with 6 points and seven rebounds.
Redshirt sophomore guard Tayler Persons found senior Ryan Weber for another 3-ball at 4:21 to give Ball State a 73-72 advantage, but the Cardinals couldn't keep the lead. Weber finished with 11 points, going 3-6 from beyond the arc.
Ohio retook the lead, 75-73, after redshirt junior Jaaron Simmons hit a pair of free throws. The Bobcats held the lead for the rest of the game, with neither team scoring in the final 2:24.
Whitford said Ball State can feel the heat after losing its two games this week by a total of four points, including Feb. 7's loss at Akron.
"Because we have lost these two really close games, we have put some pressure on ourselves," Whitford said. "We are going to have to answer the bell here during this stretch on the road."
Ball State's next game is Feb. 14 at Northern Illinois.