Cardinals’ defense, rebounding looks to get back on track after loss to Buffalo

<p>Senior forward Kyle Mallers goes in the paint Feb. 11, 2020, at John E. Worthen Arena. Mallers scored 12 points against the Huskies. <strong>Jacob Musselman, DN</strong></p>

Senior forward Kyle Mallers goes in the paint Feb. 11, 2020, at John E. Worthen Arena. Mallers scored 12 points against the Huskies. Jacob Musselman, DN

Ball State Men’s Basketball (14-12, 7-6 MAC) held Buffalo (17-9, 8-5 MAC) to 0-10 from three to start the game and led by as many as 10 in the first half. The game was tied at 29 at the half, but the Bulls stormed passed the Cardinals in the second half, outscoring Ball State 43-30 and ultimately winning 72-59.

The Cardinals were led by junior guard Ishmael El-Amin with 18 points followed redshirt freshman guard Jarron Coleman scoring 15. Head coach James Whitford was pleased with the shot selection but knows they need to get back to playing like the top defense in the Mid-American Conference that they are.

“I thought we played the right way on the offensive side of the ball,” Whitford said. “We broke down eventually on defense and that was the difference. I thought we tried to play the right way there in the second half.”

Ball State was outscored in transition 16-6 and the Bulls won in bench production scoring 18 points to the Cardinals’ 12. Ball State committed 15 turnovers and allowed 14 points off of those.

The main issue for the Cardinals came from the rebounding. This was the second straight game Ball State has been out-rebounded. They allowed Buffalo to 19 offensive rebounds and 17 second-chance points. Whitford gave credit to Josh Mballa (15 rebounds)  for giving Ball State problems on the glass. 

“He was an ironman,” Whitford said. “He had seven offensive rebounds and of the other 12 they had, I am going to guess he had a hand on probably nine or 10 of those. He was a beast for them inside and we couldn’t keep him or the team off of the glass.  

With five games remaining in the season, the Cardinals will look to instill fear into teams again through their defense. They come back to Worthen Arena to take on a red hot Eastern Michigan on Saturday. 

“There was a time where you had the fear of God you weren’t going to be able to score the ball,” Whitford said. “Teams feared us defensively and right now, they don’t fear us defensively. If we aren’t elite defensively, flip a coin because one night we could win one and the next we could lose and we’re just like everybody else.”

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

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