Ball State men's basketball victory marks best start in 16 years
Ball State men's basketball won its sixth straight game against New Orleans, making this season's 7-2 start the best since the team's 1999-2000 season.
The Dec. 5 66-52 victory over the Privateers did not come without struggles, though.
New Orleans' defense pressed Ball State throughout the game, forcing this matchup into a defensive affair with numerous wide-open shots.
Field goals - 43.4 percent (23-53)
3-point field goals - 30.4 percent (7-23)
Free throws - 68.4 percent (13-19)
Rebounds - 37
With New Orleans leading slightly late in the first half, sophomore guard Jeremie Tyler sparked Ball State's offense with a pair of 3-pointers. Tyler finished the game with 11 points, second only behind senior guard Jeremiah Davis, who had 13.
"In the beginning of the year, I wasn't shooting too well. I was shooting bad from the 3-point line," Tyler said. "Coach [James Whitford and I] talked about it. He talked about how I need to get more reps up [in practice], so that's what I've been doing since then. This game, I was just really focused in on knocking down shots."
Ball State's normal 3-point leaders, redshirt junior guard Ryan Weber and sophomore guard Francis Kiapway, made on 30 percent of their long range attempts, making Tyler's momentum off the bench crucial for the Cardinals' offense during the game.
"It was great," Whitford said. "He's really been working on it. He had lost his rhythm, and his shot had kinda gotten flat for whatever reason. He's really been coming in, getting extra work, and I thought that really payed off."
Tyler, who has seen his role diminish since the amount of additional depth that has come to the Cardinal roster since last season, agreed with Whitford's decision to bring him off the bench.
"Last year, yeah, we did need me to come in and score because of injuries," Tyler said. "But this year, I think Coach made the right decision at making me come off the bench. I think I bring a lot of intensity off the bench. I can score in a variety of ways."
Weber finished the game with 7 points on 3-9 shooting and only converting one of his 3-point attempts.
Whitford noticed this and is convinced that Weber needs to step up in practice.
"[Weber] is a really talented player. [He] does not always practice consistently — I'm calling it like it is — and that's his greatest challenge, is finding that intensity to bring it every single day. Because you know what? When you have an off-day here or there, it's gonna show up on game day," Whitford said.
With the Cardinals' best start in 16 years, Whitford looks forward to the rest of the season but admits there are several things to work on.
"There can be a feeling in games like this, like a false feeling, like, 'Hey, we should come in and win by 15 or 20.' It's just not the case," Whitford said. "We're not at that level, right now, where that's realistic. Not to say that we couldn't do it, but to think that that's gonna be the norm — no, it's not the norm."