Ball State's nine-game win streak snapped in 83-63 loss against Buffalo
Ball State was unable to overcome one of its worst shooting performances of the season against a physical Buffalo team.
The Bulls, preseason Mid-American Conference East Division favorites, outplayed the Cardinals in nearly every facet on Saturday. Buffalo (10-5, 2-0 MAC) limited Ball State (10-5, 1-1 MAC) to just 25 points and 24.2 percent from the field in the first half, both season lows, handing the Cardinals an 83-63 loss.
“I felt like we kind of lost our composure, especially in the first half,” head coach James Whitford said. "I thought in the second half, we played the game the right way.
"We were kind of more of ourselves and we played an even game during that stretch. But they're good, to beat a team like Buffalo you have to play that way for 40 minutes and we didn't."
Buffalo has won eight of the last 10 matchups against Ball State going back to the 2011-12 season.
While Ball State began to shoot better in the second half, outscoring Buffalo 12-6 coming out of the locker room, the 18 point first half deficit was too much for the Cardinals to overcome. On the night, Ball State had only one double-digit performer in senior Sean Sellers who finished with 17 points and shot 36.5 percent from the field as a team, the second worst single-game shooting percentage of the season for the Cardinals.
The dismal first half effort from Ball State saw just eight shots go in, four from within the 3-point line. Ball State was without their second best 3-point shooter in Jontrell Walker who Whitford says is "suspended indefinitely" and freshman forward Zach Gunn who is "close" to returning.
Whitford has said before that Ball State hasn't particularly shot the ball well, so what will it take for them to get there?
"I think just being patient and guys not rushing shots," Sellers, who shot 6-11 against Buffalo, said. "We'll get there, it's a long season and we still have plenty of time to get the mistakes figured out."
Those mistakes came in plenty against Buffalo in most aspects of the game. The Bulls beat the Cardinals in points in the paint (34-18), points off turnovers (24-9), 2nd chance points (13-7), fast break (11-7), bench points (38-18) and rebound (44-34).
"As we responded to getting beat, we went south not north," Whitford said. "Good play, bad play, doesn't matter. What really does matter is ... we do the next thing right.
"We let mistake pile upon mistake, pile upon mistake, pile upon mistake during the course of the game and, you know, that's not the sign of a good team."
Despite everything that went wrong in the Cardinals second conference game of the season, Whitford says that they will able to draw lessons from this game down the road. Playing a Buffalo team that is one of the best and most physical teams in the Mid-American Conference this early shows how Ball State needs to be prepared to play in the future.
"We start off [conference play] with probably four of the better teams in the conference," junior center Trey Moses said. "You're trying to test how good you are. We lost, but it's not like we're like 'dang, we're not as good as we thought,' you know? It's just going back out to practice tomorrow and getting ready for Ohio."
Moses finished with 11 rebounds and six points before he fouled out with 6:01 left in the game.
Next up for Ball State is Ohio (8-6, 2-0 MAC) on Jan. 9 followed by preseason conference favorite Western Michigan (10-5, 2-0 MAC) on Jan. 13.