Sophomore forward Zach Gunn hit a 3-pointer 14 and a half minutes into the game Tuesday, and from that point on, it was clear the gang was back together.
“Now we got to be able to find our rhythm on both offense and defense and get back to being the team that we know how to be,” head coach James Whitford said.
Gunn last saw the court Feb. 2 where he injured his ankle. His return was Ball State’s second in the last two games. Sophomore guard Ishmael El-Amin came back from a wrist injury Saturday after spending nearly two months on the sideline.
“Our team has changed on its own. It’s changed on its own here in just the last two games,” Whitford said. “It’s more about getting comfortable, and I have to get the rotations right. It’s really about getting comfortable with the guys we have back.”
In his two games back, El-Amin has played a total of 57 minutes, and they haven’t been wasted. In that short span, he has shot 58 percent from the field as well as 3 of 6 from beyond the arc.
El-Amin said he got back in the gym just two weeks after his surgery. He credits his recent shooting success to his confidence and work ethic during his absence.
“Once I was able to use my hand again, I was shooting,” El-Amin said. “So literally, I had two months basically just to shoot … I know the time I’ve put in with my shot, so I’m confident every time I shoot.”
The Cardinals have not shot the ball well from 3-point range as of late. During their current three-game skid, they’re shooting 26 percent from deep, 8 percent below their season average.
Gunn sunk both of his threes Tuesday, and El-Amin made 1 of 2 attempts. The rest of the team shot a combined 3 for 10 from downtown. Whitford said he hopes seeing teammates make shots will help his team out of its shooting slump.
“It certainly helps, but we have a ways to go to get back to where we want to be, and we don’t have much time to get there,” Whitford said. “Right now, we’re not there. That’s clear … We got to have the poise and composure down the stretch to play the game the way we know how to play it.”
Redshirt senior guard Tayler Persons said he knows winning the Mid-American Conference Tournament is a must if the Cardinals want to go to the NCAA Tournament, and having the team healthy heading into the final three games of the season only helps.
“It’s just going to give us more depth everywhere, being able to play harder for a shorter amount of time in the game,” Persons said. “So, [we need to] get comfortable with each other again and just find a groove.”
Ball State will travel to Western Michigan Saturday to take on the Broncos.