Basketball is widely known as a game of runs. Tuesday night at the Stroh Center in Bowling Green, Ohio, was a prime example of that.
From tipoff, the Cardinals went on a 10-0 run before the Falcons had a massive 32-11 run to close out the first half. Ball State jumped out in the second half on a 9-0 run to take the lead. However, in the final five minutes, Bowling Green (16-5, 7-1 MAC) went on a 20-7 run to pull ahead and eventually hand Ball State Men's Basketball (11-9, 4-3 MAC) its second straight loss, 67-61.
"We need to be able to continue to manage the emotions of the game," head coach James Whitford said in a radio interview. "Whether it's Kyle's in foul trouble or Tahj gets fronted and we can't get him the ball, you have to be able to go to the next play. We can't afford to lose possession in the game because you've lost the emotional piece."
The Falcons' efforts to stay in control, even when down, were in part of Trey Diggs and Justin Turner's efforts. Both players broke into the 20-point margin, with Diggs leading the way with a career-high 25. Turner followed with 20 points flat. In addition, the Falcons shot 36 percent from the field and outside the arc.
"There were a few plays where I thought our transition defense wasn't what it normally is," Whitford said. "I thought there were a couple of points in the first half and a couple threes that we gave up in transition that I would call uncharacteristic for us ...That's what bugs me the most."
The majority of the Cardinals' slump came from Bowling Green's first-half run. The Cardinals could not get shots to fall, as they shot 26 percent from the field and 13 percent from 3-point range. Ball State was outmatched on the bench in the first half, as it was outscored, 14-8. Bowling Green's bench finished with 34 to Ball State's nine.
While the Cardinals were up and down on their offensive performance, they saw another standout performance from redshirt senior forward Tahjai Teague, who threw down a team-high 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Junior guard Ishmael El-Amin had a comeback performance after only scoring seven points against Central Michigan, picking up 17 points and five rebounds.
Senior Kyle Mallers struggled on the night, as he went 0-for-3 from the field and 0-for-2 from 3-point range and ended up fouling out of the game. Freshman guard Luke Bumbalough also got into foul trouble, committing four by the end of the game. As the clock wound down, Ball State was forced to foul, and Bowling Green's lead extended to six in the two-minute warning.
"I thought there were some points there that we gave away tonight," Whitford said. "Credit to Bowling Green. They're a good team that has won seven in a row and have a knack of winning close games. The one thing they have is the runner-up player year in the conference, who if you put the ball in his hands, he can get a good shot."
The Cardinals dropped to 4-3 in Mid-American Conference play and 11-9 overall, two games above .500 overall and one above .500 in the conference. This is the third straight time Ball State has fallen to Bowling Green. The Cardinals face Ohio Saturday at home, whom they have dropped two straight to.