Head coach James Whitford didn't beat around the bush describing his team's performance in the second half against Loyola Chicago Tuesday.
"I thought the way we approached the second half was great, but what I'm telling you about our first half is what I made clear in the locker room. That was terrible basketball for the first 20 minutes," Whitford said. "Terrible. If we would've played two halves like we did in the second 20 minutes, we would've come out on top."
Eighteen points and a 25 percent shooting accuracy from the field proved costly for Ball State Men's Basketball (4-4, 0-0 MAC), as the first half slump put the Cardinals in a hole they couldn't get out of, falling to Loyola Chicago (5-4, 0-0 MVC), 70-58. Along with poor shooting in the first half, the Cardinals turned over the ball 12 times in the first 20 minutes of play.
"Rightfully, give Loyola great credit. They came in here, were focused and ready and I thought they played a great game," Whitford said. "Them aside, we really shot ourselves in the foot early ... I have to get us off playing better starts and playing more consistently. We're going to keep scratching here, but we're going to get the right answer."
By halftime, Ball State had only broken three players onto the scoresheet in redshirt senior forward Tahjai Teague, junior guard Ishmael El-Amin and freshman guard Luke Bumbalough. While Teague finished with 14 points and nine rebounds, he described his performance against the Ramblers as his worst in his career.
Teague's comments come from the turnover woes from the Cardinals on the night. Ball State finished with 18 to Loyola's 12. However, the game remained close in the late first half, as Ball State tied the game at 13 with a little over five minutes to go. The tie was short-lived, as the Ramblers went on an 18-5 run to close out the half and hold on to the lead for the rest of the game.
"That run hurt, but we came back in the second half with a couple easy buckets and some good looks," El-Amin said. "We got it down, but we just couldn't keep reeling them in to make the score closer."
The Cardinals' first and second halves were day and night, as they downed 40 points in the second. In almost every facet of the game, Ball State outplayed Loyola, shooting 13-of-32 from the field, 6-of-14 from behind the arc and pulling in 20 rebounds.
"In the second 20 minutes, we played really good basketball," Whitford said. "We scored 40 points in the second half, Jarron had a layup that he missed, Tahjai had a layup he missed. We played the game the right way."
Coming toward the end of its non-conference schedule, Ball State has faced a handful of different teams and styles. In a tight game against Northern Kentucky, the Cardinals struggled to adjust to the Norse's style of play. Against the Ramblers, Whitford said his team is still struggling to make that adjustment to unfamiliar styles of play.
"I think now without K.J. [Walton], we're on the younger side of guys on the court," Whitford said. "Almost 30 percent of our minutes went to freshmen, so there's some of that coming for sure."
In the loss, El-Amin set a new career high with 24 points, going 8-for-8 at the free-throw line. Loyola broke three players into double figures in Cameron Krutwig (14), Tate Hall (14) and Lucas Williamson (10). Ball State hosts IUPUI Saturday.
"We need to make sure that we are defensively sound and rebounding the ball," El-Amin said. "We just need to play our brand of basketball."