Roster shines as Ball State Men's Basketball rolls Defiance
Halfway through the second half of the Cardinals' season opener against Defiance, all five players on the court had seen little to no playing time last season. It was odd for head coach James Whitford, but in a good way.
"It was great to get everyone experience, especially our freshman," Whitford said. "I looked up, and we had five freshman on the court with 10 minutes left in the game. I thought that was funny. It's been a long time since I've seen that."
The young core of six combined for 32 points on the night, lending a helping hand to Ball State Men's Basketball's (1-0, 0-0 MAC) first win of the season, 87-43, over Defiance (0-0, 0-0 HCAC). Redshirt freshman Jarron Coleman led the newcomers, downing 10 points and leading in assists with five on the night.
"I just tried to lock in on making a simple play," Coleman said. "If I'm open, I'm looking to draw two teammates and just taking the shots I need to take."
Coleman also tied with senior forward Kyle Mallers in rebounds on the night with seven. The last time Coleman took the court for the Cardinals was in an exhibition game last season against UIndy where he knocked down nine points and four assists in a 92-76 win. Whitford said he wasn't surprised at all by Coleman's performance.
"He has a chance to be real, real good, but he has a lot of things to work on," Whitford said. "He's a freshman in every sense of the word, but he's a very talented freshman. He's got a chance to have a big impact for us, but he has a lot of little things he needs to get better at. I have no question that he has a bright future for us."
Alongside Coleman, freshmen guards Luke Bumbalough and Lucas Kroft both racked up a handful of minutes. Bumbalough led the team in playing time with 22 minutes, knocking down five points and shooting 3-of-5 from deep. Kroft shot 2-for-7 from close and 2-for-6 from 3-point range for six points on the night.
Amidst the strong performance from the Cardinal newcomers, there were still some lessons to be learned in playing their first college game or first game in over a year. Redshirt sophomore forward Miryne Thomas picked up four fouls late in the second half. The forward hasn't seen playing time since transferring from Maryland East Shore in 2018.
"Miryne is great kid and is a talented player, but he has a lot to learn," Whitford said. "It's a very different way of playing now than it would've been. It's hard to learn a lot in your year out. You're not getting a lot of game reps, and you're not playing the games where you're seeing 30 different types of defense in 30 different types of offense ... He also missed six weeks of practice due to a broken finger, so he's a little behind on some of the things you'll have to learn."
However, Tuesday night wasn't all about the rookies, as the a handful of returners kicked off the season with strong performances. Mallers led the team on the night in points with 23, going 4-of-7 from deep. The senior was 1-for-3 in the first half before hitting three straight shots from deep in the first five minuets of the second half.
"I just got some open looks and took them," Mallers said. "Guys found me, and I just made a few."
Redshirt senior guard K.J. Walton led in shot accuracy from the floor, going 5-for-7 on the night with 11 points. Coming off the bench, redshirt senior forward Tahjai Teague put down 11 points, shooting 3-for-6 from the free-throw line.
"I liked how we played," Mallers said. "We stuck together, took good shots, especially in the second half. We're looking to keep it rolling"
Ball State rolls out of this matchup heading to Evansville Saturday. The Purple Aces got the better of the Cardinals in their last trip to the Ford Center Dec. 9, winning, 77-89, off of 52 points in the second half.
Ball State will also be without junior forward Zach Gunn, as Whitford said he is dealing with an ankle issue and will most likely be out six to eight weeks.