Defense, Ohio's missed opportunities propel Cardinals to victory

Sometimes, defense can attribute to a win, and other times, luck will. In Ball State’s Saturday afternoon 65-54 win over Ohio, it was a little bit of both.

The Cardinals ended the game with eight steals and 14 points off of turnovers, but the Bobcats also went 5-for-28 from downtown. Head coach James Whitford said he thought the defense played well but recognized Ohio’s lack of execution.

“I thought we defended well, but I thought neither team shot the ball particularly well,” Whitford said. “I thought that both teams missed some opportunities. I thought when they had some opportunities, they did not convert.”

Ohio shot just 35 percent from the field on 21-of-59 shooting while Ball State shot just 38 percent on 22-of-57 shooting. 

The Cardinals were able to hold the Mid-American Conference leader in assists, Jason Preston, to just five assists. His matchup, junior guard Ishmael El-Amin, said he believed sticking to the defense he has played all year was going to propel the team and contain Preston.

“I just tried to come out and defend Jason Preston as much as I can,” El-Amin said. “He leads the MAC in assists, so I just came out and do what I have done all year, keeping them in front of me and put us in a position to win the game.” 

Whitford gave credit to the defense for containing Ben Vander Plas and Preston. He said he appreciated the group effort it took to keep them from scoring the ball.

“I thought our defense was really good,” Whitford said. “Vander Plas and Jason Preston are a problem because they are such good passers. They force you to have a lot of one-on-one coverage, and I thought Ish did a great job on Preston. I thought we did a good job with helping.”

A lot of that help defense came from redshirt junior forward Brachen Hazen, who makes sure success comes from communication. He ended the game with two steals and a block. 

“I strive to talk as much as I can and make sure I am doing my job as a big man, containing pick-and-roll stuff, defending the rim as much as I can and trying to clean up rebounds,” Hazen said. 

Whitford praised Hazen’s decision making in the matchup and described it as the game slowing down for him. 

“I thought he was really good defensively,” Whitford said. “He drove the ball in and played under control, and he made some good decisions. We are trying to get him to slow down his decision making, and I thought that was good tonight.” 

Ball State travels to Kent State Tuesday, Feb. 4 for a 7 p.m. tip. 

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

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