Slow start prevents Ball State from staying undefeated in MAC

The first 10 minutes of the game was enough to prevent Ball State Men’s Basketball (4-4, 2-1 MAC) from pulling out the win.

The Cardinals lost their first game in Mid-American Conference play after falling to Ohio (5-4, 1-2 MAC) 78-68, and senior guard Ishmael El-Amin believes the difference was the first eight to 10 minutes. 

“They tried to speed us up and get us out of our rhythm early,” El-Amin said. “They threw the first punch and had us on our heels and made the game a little harder than we wanted them to, and they are just really active.”

The Bobcats led by as many as 15 points halfway through the first half, as they were up 26-11 with 10:18 remaining. Ball State was able to get three three-pointers by redshirt junior forward Miryne Thomas to bring the Cardinals within eight. He ended the night with 17 points and eight rebounds.

“It is a long time coming for [Miryne Thomas],” El-Amin said. “He goes hard every day in practice, and he is finally getting his rhythm, and his foot is starting to feel healthy, and it is great for us. It is great for him because he is confident.”

While Thomas gave the Cardinals a spark in the middle of the first half, it was El-Amin who closed the half strong. He made a three at the 4:34 mark to bring it within three points, then hit a couple of free throws and finally made a three to make it a five point game to close the half.

He finished the game with 18 points and shot 4-9 from deep, and head coach James Whitford thought despite the slow start, El-Amin was the reason Ball State was able to get back into the game

“I thought they did a great job defensively,” Whitford said. “I thought we were out of sorts. I thought it got better, and Ish [El-Amin] settled us in. Ish started to slow down and become a better decision-maker. I thought that really carried over into the group. We were fine on offense for the final 30 minutes. The first 10 we were out of character.” 

Ohio had five players score in double-figures in its win and were led by forward Ben Roderick who scored 20 points and made six three-pointers. They also got contributions from guard Mark Sears who scored 18 points and 11 in the first half. Forward Ben Vander Plas also had 14 points.

“I think they have good balance as a program,” Whitford said. “[Mark] Sears and [Ben] Vander Plas is a problem. Vander Plas is a problem for every team that sees him. He is a great passer and a really willing passer. For Sears to come in and do what he has done the last two games after not playing at all is ridiculous.”

While Whitford said he was pleased with the offense in the final 30 minutes, he believes the defense needs to improve a lot before Ball State can be a force to be reckoned with. He said that the offense played well enough to win the game, but that wasn't enough.

“We aren’t good enough defensively,” Whitford said. “We have to get better defensively. We gave up 55 percent from the field and that is not good enough. Our defensive numbers at the end of the day aren’t anywhere good enough. Until we can get better defensively, every game is going to be an adventure for us.” 

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

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