Ball State’s win over Indiana State was a tale of two halves. One half saw the ball clank off of the rim, and the other saw it fall through the bottom of the net.
The Cardinals shot just 1-of-12 from 3-point range in the first half, and in the second, things turned around significantly, as they shot 3-of-7. The first-half percentage is deceiving because Ball State still had a lead at the break, 27-26.
“We didn’t shoot the ball well,” head coach James Whitford said. “I thought overall we played the right way. We defended our tail off and rebounded really well. Three games don’t make a trend. We will see how it goes and why we did not shoot it well in the first half.”
Redshirt senior forward Tahjai Teague was a large contributor in the win, as he scored a season-high 22 points and recorded 10 rebounds. Like Whitford, Teague said he thinks the defense and rebounding made up for the poor shooting in the first half, which helped them maintain a lead.
“I think the first half this season, we have started off slow shooting the ball, and the second half we are able to pick it up some,” Teague said. “Our defense did well. That is why it was a one-point game at the half.”
The Cardinals have outrebounded every opponent so far this season, and this was no exception. Ball State grabbed 41 rebounds to Indiana State’s 28. The Cardinals also held the Sycamores to their own shooting problems in the first half, as they just made one more 3-pointer than the Cardinals, shooting just 2-for-6.
Whitford said he wants the game plan to be less shooting from outside and more bruising down low. That was the outcome in the second half, and it eventually led to more threes falling.
“There have been some games for us where we have come out shooting too many jump shots without getting the ball inside,” Whitford said. “I do not think this was one of them because that was one of the things I addressed was playing inside out.”
Whitford also said the shots they take are not forced.
“One thing I care about is the quality of our shots,” Whitford said. “If we find that the quality of our shots are bad, it is a totally separate conversation.”
Part of the reason the Cardinals were successful shooting the ball in the second half was due to the rebounding, which led to transition threes.
Redshirt senior guard K.J. Walton was the team’s second-leading rebounder with nine. This helped because he was able to grab the board and push the pace, setting up his teammates.
“I think it is good,” Walton said. “It just allows us to jailbreak, and get going and I can find guys like Ishmael [El-Amin] and Kyle [Mallers] like I did tonight.”
El-Amin was one of the players who struggled to get his shot to reach the bottom of the net in the first half but picked it up in the second.
El-Amin hit all three of his shots beyond the arc in the second half, and he attributed the resurgence in the second half to just keeping with it and hitting the shots they were supposed to.
“We get the right shots and take the right shots,” El-Amin said. “A lot of the shots we missed were open shots, so the coach was not really mad about the shots we were taking. The second half, we just buckled down and hit the shots we were supposed to.”