Similar to the Cardinals’ 75-62 loss to Bowling Green, Ball State Men’s Basketball (7-11, 5-8 MAC) led at halftime against Akron (14-4, 12-3 MAC).
The Cardinals went into the break leading 36-30 and held the Zips’ offense to just 34 percent shooting from the field and 33 percent from deep. Ball State held Akron’s leading scorer Loren Cristian Jackson to zero points in the half. In spite of this, Ball State lost the game 88-79.
“I thought we came out of the gates focused,” Whitford said. “We competed, and I thought we learned our lessons from the last game. Our defense in the second half just couldn’t hold it. I thought we did a good job of forcing him to take mid-range shots. Our defense just didn’t hold up for the 40 minutes.”
The second half was a different story for the Cardinals, as they allowed the Zips to score 58 points. They came out of the gates and made their first eight shots in the half. Five of those were 3-pointers.
Akron’s Ali Ali led the Zips with 20 points, followed by Bryan Trimble Jr with 19 and Enrique Freeman and Jackson with 12. Sophomore guard Luke Bumbalough said Ball State’s defense needs to do a better job staying focused.
“We need to stay focused every single play,” Bumbalough said. “We can’t let anything distract us. Our communication needs to be better. Our transition defense and stuff like that. When they go on those runs, staying together and talking.”
Head coach James Whitford said part of the difference was that Ball State fouled too much. In spite of making more total shots than Akron, Ball State allowed them to the free-throw line 25 times, making 19 of them, while the Cardinals only went to the line nine times.
“We can’t put Loren Cristian Jackson at the line,” Bumbalough said.”They “He is going to make all of his. They were calling it tight, and we should have picked up on it way earlier. They are also really aggressive and got to the lane and rim a lot.”
Despite the loss, Whitford thought the Cardinals responded well to Tuesday night’s loss to Bowling Green. They were led by senior guard Ishmael El-Amin with 20 points, redshirt senior Brachen Hazen with a career-high 18 points and redshirt fifth-year K.J. Walton with 12.
“We were a much physically tougher team tonight,” Whitford said. “We did a better job on the glass. Mentally, we did a better job of not complaining to the officials and locking into the next play. I thought we did unravel at the end with all of the [talking]. That is the part we can control.”
Even though Ball State has lost two games in a row and sits eighth in the Mid-American Conference, Bumbalough said he is excited for this team to reach its full potential in the last five games.
“Next game,” Bumbalough said. “We are focused on the right things, and we have to keep playing. We can’t dwell on the past. We are still getting everyone back and are trying to get our chemistry together. We will hit our stride at the right time.”