Ball State (10-6, 1-2 MAC) lost its second straight at home Saturday against Ohio (9-6, 1-2 MAC), 70-52. The Bobcats scored the first 10 points of the game and never trailed as the Cardinals scored a season-low 18 points in the first half. Here’s a few things that may have contributed to Ball State’s loss.
Key players struggle
Redshirt senior guard Tayler Persons is the big one here. Combine his performance Tuesday with his first half Saturday and Persons shot 16 percent from the field. He picked it up in the second half against the Bobcats to finish with 16 points, but the Cardinals had no chance from the start simply because shots weren’t falling early on. Ball State outscored Ohio in the second half, but the hole was too deep to climb out of.
If anything, Persons was actually a bright spot for the Cardinals. Senior center Trey Moses and junior forwards Tahjai Teague and Kyle Mallers – all key contributors in the scoring column for the Cardinals – combined for 10 points Saturday. Unless the bench takes over the game – which it didn’t – any team will be in for a long game when its top scorers have that output.
Taking care of the ball
The Cardinals turned the ball over 10 times in the first 12 minutes. That in itself is a recipe for disaster. By the end of the game, they had 19, which led to a total of 19 points for Ohio. Two Cardinals finished with five turnovers, and another two had three.
As bad as Ball State was with ball security, it was equally bad with distributing the ball. The team averages 15 assists per game. Saturday, the Cardinals had five. Passing the ball leads to open shots, which leads to points, and the Cardinals will need more than 52 during their two-game road trip.
Missing the freebies
Over the last two contests, Ball State has shot 56 percent from the free-throw line. The team shoots 71 percent from the charity stripe on the season. Needless to say, the Cardinals are going through a free throw slump.
There’s a reason they’re called free throws. The opposing team is essentially giving you points – points that are scored while the clock isn’t running. The Cardinals have been missing more of those than usual lately, which led to the overtime loss to Eastern Michigan and the lopsided loss to Ohio.
The Cardinals made their first and only 3-pointer of the game with just under four minutes to go in the first half. They shoot 37 percent from behind the arc as a team on the season, so their 1 for 12 (8.3 percent) performance Saturday was below average. The Cardinals average 21.6 points a game from 3-pointers. They scored three points from downtown against Ohio. The difference there was the margin of victory for the Bobcats. The lack of threes wasn’t the only reason the Cardinals lost, but it played a factor.