This one simple word meant so much in Ball State Men’s Basketball (3-3, 1-1 MAC) 67-57 loss to Indiana State (2-2, 0-0 Missouri Valley).
The Cardinals committed 13 turnovers in the first half and seven in the second half. Head coach James Whitford thought that was the difference.
“That’s the story of the game,” Whitford said. “Even if we turn the ball over seven times in the first half, we win the game.”
Saturday afternoon’s game was a tale of two halves, as Ball State was outscored by the Sycamores 38-23 in the first half. Indiana State scored 18 of those points off of turnovers.
Not only were the Sycamores putting pressure on the Cardinals’ offense, but their starting guard Jake LaRavia also put up a career-high 22 points in the first half and ended the game with 27.
“I have to give credit to Indiana State,” Whitford said. “You could tell they were ready to play. I thought they really took us out of a lot of things there in the first half, and we didn’t handle it well. I thought our turnovers were the difference in the game.”
Not only did Ball State turn the ball over 13 times in the first half, but they also struggled to get the ball in the basket, as they shot just 37.5 percent from the field and 16.7 percent from deep. Whitford believes he needs to do a better job of preparing them with the little things, such as being emotionally ready.
“We have to try and just get better at the little things,” Whitford said. “They really pressured us and were disruptive early, and we didn’t handle it well. It is my job to put us in a better position and I didn’t. I thought when they were on their run, we emotionally had some moments where we lost our cool.”
The second half was a different story. The Cardinals came back from 15 and cut the deficit to as close as three points in the half, but ultimately couldn’t get the job done.
Ball State was led by senior guard Ishmael El-Amin with 18 points and redshirt fifth-year K.J. Walton with 13 points and six rebounds. Sophomore guard Jalen Windham provided a second-half spark with a couple of threes. He ended the night with 10 points.
Whitford wishes they would have had that same fight in the first half, and believes they would have won if that were the case.
“It took us until halftime to really gather our feet underneath us,” Whitford said. “From that point on, we played well enough to win the game, but in the first half when they went up, they should not have been up 15 at halftime. That’s what I leave the game frustrated most about, was that we didn’t have a little more fight in that first half.”
Whitford credited the second-half run to not calling as many plays and letting the game naturally play out. He said it was a part of the reason they didn’t commit as many turnovers in the second half.
“We started attacking in the second half,” Whitford said. “We tried to call less plays and put the players in positions to make more plays. We tried to do things that would ease their pressure. It was too hard for us to run anything because we couldn’t get open.”
Indiana State came into this game on a two-game losing streak and hasn’t beat Ball State since 2016. Whitford knew what this game meant to the Sycamores and tried to prepare his team for that.
“They really came out ready,” Whitford said. “They felt a lot of pressure because it had been a while since this game had really gone their way. They hit us in the mouth to start the game, and we unraveled a little bit.”
Despite the loss, Whitford said he is looking forward to conference games and believes there is something to learn each night.
“We just have to get better with every passing game,” Whitford said. “We have a lot of guys that don’t have a ton of experience out there. They will get better with time.”
Contact Ian Hansen with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ianh_2.