MEN'S BASKETBALL: Ball State winning streak snapped by IUPUI

Team can't complete sweep of Jaguars at Conseco Fieldhouse

INDIANAPOLIS -- Ball State's big motivation for playing IUPUI twice was to prepare for the five West Division opponents it will see twice in Mid-American Conference play this season.

In Monday's post-game press conference, coach Billy Taylor said the keys to a game of familiarity are toughness and the will to win a second time over a hungry team.

The only problem is, the Cardinals forgot both during the game.

After winning 69-62 back on Nov. 23, Ball State lost 66-57 at its chance to sweep in-state rival IUPUI at Conseco Fieldhouse Monday.

To start the game, it looked like the Cardinals heeded their coach's word.

Not three minutes in, IUPUI's freshman forward Lyonell Gaines rebounded a teammates miss, only to have it muscled out of his hands by Ball State's redshirt sophomore forward Tyler Koch.

The toughness play led to an uncontested layup on the ensuing possession by senior center Jarrod Jones, which extended Ball State's opening run to 8-0.

After that steal, the Cardinals hustle plays were all but over.

IUPUI quickly erased Ball State's advantage inside by controlling the glass and getting extra possessions.

"I give IUPUI a lot of credit," Taylor said. "Their guys really attacked the boards hard and played physical on the interior. Something we talk about as wanting to be part of our identity--wanting to establish and dominate the paint--we didn't do that effectively tonight."

Despite shooting 38.6 percent for the game, the Jaguars gobbled up every second chance opportunity and started to chip away at the lead. Their 16 offensive rebounds resulted in 17 second chance points for the game.

With one minute left in the first half, IUPUI corralled yet another miss, only for sophomore guard Ian Chiles to drill one of his three 3-pointers on the night. The shot gave IUPUI the lead going into halftime and the team never trailed again.

Ball State prides itself on the defensive end, but for the first time all year, the team looked out of sorts for long stretches at a time.

Jones said he felt like his team was outnumbered at times near the basket because the Jaguars sent so many bodies to rebound. The reality is, the Cardinals defense was so out of position they couldn't get a body on anyone to box out. This left free runs to the basket all night for the Jaguars.

"We definitely had defensive lapses out there," Taylor said. "We had some poor rotations. It started early. We gave up a straight line drive to [Alex] Young where he was able to get in the gap. We just didn't have a wall of defenders--that activity that we normally see."

Young, the Summit League's Preseason Player of the Year, torched the Cardinals for big plays all night. After Ball State held him to nine points on 3-of-15 shooting in November, he exploded for 22 points and seven rebounds Monday.

"The first game, gave a lot of help and he saw a lot of bodies in the paint," sophomore forward Chris Bond said. "This game, since he was shut down the first game, he came out ready to attack more."

Bond said he sensed Young would do that from the tip, but the Cardinals couldn't match his intensity.

After its hot start, Ball State faded until IUPUI's lead ballooned to as much as 16 points with 13:51 left in the second half. The team looked lethargic and its offense stumbled up to that point.

Over the final ten-plus minutes, the Cardinals fought back into contention, but complacency gave way to selfish play. Ball State cut the lead under ten several times, but Young shut the door on any possible threat.

Young said he felt his team sucked the energy out of Ball State with every made basket.

"They played solid defense for the first 30 seconds of the clock and it [second chances] eventually wore them down," Young said. "That was part of our game plan. Get good shots and if we had to go the end of the buzzer to maximize offensive possession, that's what we wanted to do."

Coming off an emotional high after the win against Butler last Saturday, this loss could've set the team back. But Jones said this team is as focused as ever.

"It's already behind us," Jones said. "We came and got this loss off a six game winning streak. So, it's just time to start another one."