Unselfishness, making extra pass leads to Ball State's record-setting night

With about 10 minutes left in the first half, senior forward Kyle Mallers passed the ball to junior guard Ishmael El-Amin, who then passed it to redshirt senior guard Josh Thompson.  

Thompson looked inside to redshirt freshman guard Jarron Coleman. He passed it back out to Mallers.

Mallers and El-Amin went back and forth, and finally, they caught Howard’s zone off guard to fire a three to give Ball State a 26-10 lead.

The Cardinals racked up 30 assists as a team and were making the extra pass all game long. That possession defined what most of the game looked like for Ball State. Everyone was on the same page, and they were playing as a unit. 

“Our guys just shared the ball,” head coach James Whitford said. “We played unselfishly. We talked about it before the game that we were just playing together and trying to get the ball inside-out. The thing I enjoyed most was 30 assists as a team and 36 field goals.”

While three players set career highs and the team set a program record, the players' unselfishness ultimately led to these accomplishments and was the reason they won.

It started with Mallers, who had both a career best in points with 24 and 3-pointers made with eight. Mallers hit his first four threes in a row in a span of just three minutes and ended the first half with 21 points, putting an end to the Cardinals' first-half 3-point shooting woes.

Even with Mallers shooting well from downtown, he gave credit to his teammates for sharing the ball and finding him at the right place.

“It feels good,” Mallers said. “I think we touched on it in the locker room, and I think we came in and shared the ball really well and racked up a bunch of assists.”

Ball State freshman center Ben Hendriks and junior guard Ishmael El-Amin celebrate redshirt junior forward Brachen Hazen dunking during the Cardinals' game against Howard Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, at John E. Worthen Arena. Hazen scored 10 points. Paige Grider, DN

Next, in the absence of redshirt senior guard K.J. Walton, somebody had to step up in the role of a playmaker. Thompson was that guy, as he set a career high in assists with 10. 

Thompson, on the other hand, gave credit to Mallers and El-Amin for hitting shots whenever he would feed the ball to them.

“I feel like Kyle and Ish had it from the jump hitting open jumpers,” Thompson said. “We pretty much fed off of each other. We would turn down a good pass for a great pass. It got contagious, and we all just tried to find the open person.” 

Finally, freshman guard Luke Bumbalough came in off of the bench and scored a career-best 18 points with all of them coming from beyond the arc. He also hit the shot to set Ball State’s single-game record in 3-pointers made.

“It was cool to see that happen," Bumbalough said. “I feel like we got good shots on the perimeter, and we just took what they gave us. It was just a matter of hitting shots, so it was a good day.” 

Prior to Saturday afternoon, the Cardinals’ team record for 3-pointers made in a single game was 18. They ended the game with 21, and a large part of that was due to the first-half shooting. Ball State went into halftime with 13 threes on 65 percent shooting. 

“It is always fun,” Whitford said. “It is especially fun as a player, but I always look at it as getting better. I think we did a lot of good things. We really played unselfishly, and it’s definitely the most important quality and the most important thing for any team.” 

Contact Ian Hansen with comments at imhansen@bsu.edu or on Twitter @ianh_2.

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