Ball State (11-10, 2-6 MAC) fell 83-59 to No.18 Buffalo (19-2, 7-1 MAC) Tuesday. Taking on a nationally-ranked team on the road is a tall task in itself, but the Cardinals made things more difficult in multiple areas. Here’s what to take away from the game.
3 more men down
Ball State has been regularly playing with eight players the last handful of games with sophomore guard Ishmael El-Amin and redshirt sophomore forward Brachen Hazen sidelined due to injuries.
Six minutes into Tuesday’s contest, senior center Trey Moses went down with a knee injury. He would not return. This forced redshirt freshman center Blake Huggins into more minutes. Huggins filled the void respectfully. He scored six points and pulled down 10 rebounds – six of them on the offensive end.
At the 13:46 mark in the second half, sophomore forward Zach Gunn fouled out. With six minutes remaining, redshirt junior guard K.J. Walton took a seat after picking up his fifth foul. At that point, with Moses, Gunn and Walton all on the bench, the Cardinals had six players to work with for the rest of the game.
Production off the bench
For the second straight game, Walton started on the bench. Last time, he only scored 10 points on 3 of 8 shooting. This time around, it seemed to work out.
Limited to 20 minutes of playing time because of foul trouble, Walton still managed to lead the Cardinals in the scoring column. He dropped 18 points while shooting 57 percent from the field.
Walton was one of two Cardinals to score in double figures. While the switch in the starting lineup boded well for Walton Tuesday, it hasn’t improved the overall outcome as the team has dropped each of its last two games.
Coming off a 56 percent performance from behind the 3-point line, it looked like the Cardinals had solved their shooting woes from deep. Tuesday seemed to feature anything but improvement in that regard.
The Cardinals shot 9 percent from downtown. They made a grand total of two 3-pointers. A large portion of Ball State’s offense revolves around the 3-pointer, and consistently missing that shot is a recipe for disaster for this team.
The final score could have been even more lopsided if the Bulls had hit a higher percentage of their threes. Buffalo shot just 23 percent from deep, but it was enough to take down the Cardinals.
Buffalo will be Buffalo
Buffalo has the best record in the Mid-American Conference for a reason. After handedly defeating championship-contending Arizona 89-68 as a 13 seed in the 2018 NCAA Tournament, the Bulls gained the nation’s attention.
Following a solid start to this season, the Bulls cracked the AP Top 25 in week two. At 19-2, they currently sit at No. 18 in the polls.
Simply put, Buffalo has put a target on its back as the team to beat in the MAC, and it proved why Tuesday.