After winning three consecutive conference games, Ball State (14-12, 5-8 MAC) was unable to continue its three-game winning streak Tuesday with a 69-66 road loss to Miami (Ohio) (14-12, 6-7 MAC). 

The Cardinals went on an 18-7 run late to put them within one with five seconds left. Redshirt senior Tayler Persons’ 3-pointer at the buzzer was a bit off, and the RedHawks escaped with the win. Here’s what stood out in the Cardinals’ loss. 

Defensive intensity second go-round

In the teams’ first matchup this season, Miami came to Worthen Arena and was able to score efficiently all game. The RedHawks found success shooting 60 percent from the field in the first half including 6 for 13 from beyond the arc. They finished that game shooting above 50 percent and 37.5 percent from three.

Tuesday, although another close loss ensued, the Cardinals came with more physicality and pressure on the defensive side of the ball in the second half. The Cardinals improved as the game went on, stifling the RedHawks and forcing them to shoot 5 of 21 from floor and 3 of 10 from three in the second half.

The Cardinals pickpocketed the RedHawks with 14 steals, forcing a total of 17 turnovers, five more than the RedHawks’ average per game. Redshirt juniors K.J. Walton and Tahjai Teague combined for seven steals, and Josh Thompson added three. 

Bench production

The RedHawks had to find scoring off the bench after starting forward, sophomore Dalonte Brown, went down early.

Redshirt sophomore Precious Ayah stepped in place and played a career-high 28 minutes. Ayah put up a double-double with 11 points and 13 boards on 5 of 8 shooting. Miami’s bench as a whole outscored the Cardinals’ bench 31-19, shooting an efficient 13 of 20 to complement the starters. 

Ball State head coach James Whitford gave sentiment to redshirt sophomore Brachen Hazen for his production. Hazen was the leading bench scorer for Ball State, putting up nine points and seven rebounds. 

At the line

The Cardinals were able to play tough defense, holding the RedHawks in check from the floor, but Miami was able to withstand runs because of foul shooting.

Both teams are shooting 71.1 percent from the line this season. The RedHawks shot 81.8 percent Tuesday, going 18 for 22. The Cardinals were resilient in the second half with several different runs to get within striking distance, but they didn’t help their cause by only shooting 9 of 16 from the line. 

Tight margins continue in MAC play

This road loss to Miami was just another added to the Cardinals’ list of single-digit, last play, down-to-the-wire conference games this season. The margin of victory or loss in their Mid-American Conference games this year has averaged around eight points despite a 24-point loss at Buffalo, a 15-point win at Toledo and a 20-point home win against Western Michigan.  

Eight of the Cardinals’ 13 conference games this year have been decided in the final moments of regulation or overtime. Miami has defeated Ball State twice this season by a combined nine points.

Contact Dorian Ducre with any comments at or on Twitter @DucreDorian.