Ball State men's basketball 'gritty' play leads Cardinals over Bradley
In the Ball State men's basketball final practice before hosting Bradley Dec. 6, head coach James Whitford said his team needed to be grittier.
When game time came around, they were. Ball State (5-4) defeated Bradley (4-5) 80-63 behind balanced scoring and a suffocating defensive performance.
"We haven’t really left the game feeling like we played well in a while," Whitford said. "I thought we played the game the right way.”
Ball State double figure scorers
Trey Moses (17)
Tayler Persons (15)
Sean Sellers (14)
Ryan Weber (13)
Five Cardinals, including four starters, scored in double figures behind a career high 17 from sophomore center Trey Moses.
"He's more experienced; he's more athletic; he's better in every category," Whitford said of Moses.
The Cardinals' balanced attack on the offensive end kept the Braves guessing. With 32 points in the paint, nine 3-point shots and 17 points off turnovers, Bradley had no answer.
The Cardinals pushed the tempo and beat Bradley at its own game — driving to the basket.
Redshirt sophomore Tayler Persons said the team used recent practices to prepare for a Bradley team that likes to drive to the basket.
"Our detail to that was high level," Persons said.
Moses, who entered the game making 75 percent of his free throws this season, gained confidence after making six of his seven attempts.
"He's such a better free-throw shooter than he’s shown. You miss them enough, it becomes mental," Whitford said. "You need that moment to break through."
The Cardinals shot an efficient 58 percent from the field, but Whitford said their hot offense stems from strong defense.
He referenced the loss to IUPUI, where the Cardinals gave up 29 points in the first half and 44 in the second half.
"We didn't have any of those moments where the game started to get away from us that we had to be able to fight through," Whitford said.
His team was able to fight back and stop any runs the Braves threw at them, including the 54 percent 3-point shooting in the second half by Bradley.
Junior forward Sean Sellers thought the team really locked down on defense in the second half and paid attention to detail.
"Offense can come and go, but defense and to pick each other up is something you can bring every day," Sellers said.
Whitford said being able to hold strong and not unravel on the defensive end is a big challenge and one his team still needs to improve on.
The Cardinals forced 16 turnovers, which resulted in 17 points. Whitford said his team scoring 80 points on 74 possessions is "off the charts."
Sellers added to the efficient offense, hitting four of six attempts from the 3-point line and finishing with 14 points.
Besides the scoring being "off the charts," so was the Cardinals' energy level. After an "identity" meeting, as Persons called it, earlier in the week, team members aired out any problems they were having and discussed how they can keep their energy up.
"It was a lot of fun to play with the guys today," Persons said. "We felt like a real team out there — everybody had each other's back."