Head coach James Whitford described redshirt senior forward Tahjai Teague’s performance as a “Junkyard dog” in Ball State's (6-5, 0-0 MAC) 85-64 loss to No. 22 Washington (9-2, 0-0 PAC 12) in the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii.
After two consecutive games of Teague scoring and rebounding in single digits, he put together his fourth double-double of the season scoring 20 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.
“I thought he did a great job tonight,” Whitford said. “He took 15 shots and all of the shots were the right kind of shots, he got offensive rebounds, post-ups and he got one open three from the corner. I thought he played the right way.”
Defensively, Teague also had a positive impact alongside senior forward Kyle Mallers. When both were on the court at the same time. With Teague in foul trouble most of the game, that forced Mallers to be a primary defender and guard Washington’s best players.
While Washington did have two players score 20 or more points, Whitford said he was pleased to see Mallers and Teague defend well inside.
“He (Mallers) did a great job,” Whitford said. “Defensively, he was really good and it is not a bad way for us to do it because it makes Tahjae a helper where he is very effective. We struggled when we had one of those two guys out.”
The area Whitford wants to see improvement is guarding the perimeter. He thought too many players for the Huskies had wide-open threes.
It started in the first half when Washington shot 66 percent from deep on 8-12 shooting and 45 percent throughout the game. Ball State also got early contributions from junior guard Ishmael El-Amin who had 13 points on the night. It just was not enough to stop Washington’s hot shooting.
"They shot the ball very well early," Whitford said. "In the second half, we didn't handle the moments in the game that got hard with enough composure. There were too many moments where we let something happen and we lost our composure.”
On the other end, the Cardinals did not see the ball going through the basket from deep as they shot 29 percent on the game. Whitford gives credit to Washington for being able to switch well on defense.
"It's not the fact they played man-to-man that was hard," Whitford said. "The thing that's unusual about them is they have a center in Isaiah Stewart who can switch pick-and-rolls and guard your point guard at a really high level. He's such a unique defender. They took us out of a lot of stuff because of that."
Whitford attributed the Huskie’s success to guys hitting tough 3's off of the dribble. Washington was led by Jaden McDaniels who scored 22 points.
“Jaden McDaniels hits the tough ones,” Whitford said. “He is 6’9 hitting a pullup off the dribble three. We tweaked the matchup a little bit but the reality is, if Jaden McDaniels is going to hit off of the dribble threes, it’ll be hard to win.”
Whitford thought they needed to stick to the gameplan of not letting Washington get what they want in the paint. He knew Huskies couldn’t keep their first-half performance up.
“At a certain point we have to play the percentages,” Whitford said. “It doesn’t make sense for us to take that away knowing how good they are at the rim and what we would expose in trying to take that away. We have to take away the open ones but if they hit tough ones, move on next play.”