This is what head coach James Whitford and senior Ishmael El-Amin said was one of the deciding factors in Ball State Men’s Basketball (6-9, 4-6 MAC) 78-58 loss to Buffalo (7-6, 5-4 MAC).
“They are a physical team,” El-Amin said. “When you play against them you have to be under control. You can’t let them beat you up. I feel like we did an ok job with that. Of course, we didn’t want to turn the ball over as many times as we did.”
The Cardinals turned the ball over 18 times which led to 22 of the Bulls’ 78 points. Despite the turnovers and Buffalo’s physicality, Whitford thought Ball State performed well defensively away from the rim. He thought the interior defense was a different story.
The first time the two teams played Jan. 9, Buffalo won the rebounding battle 53-39. On Tuesday night, Buffalo only outrebounded Ball State 44-40. Buffalo ranked eighth in the nation in offensive rebounding before the game, and Whitford thought the Cardinals were much better on the glass.
“They are so physical, and that is not our strength,” Whitford said. “One area I thought we could have been better was our physicality around the rim. But I thought we were connected defensively. I thought we competed on the glass much better against a good rebounding team.”
Buffalo’s forward Josh Mballa is a contributing factor to their physicality and success on the boards. He ended the night with a game-high 22 points and 16 rebounds.
“He is a force,” El-Amin said. “We have to keep him off of the glass. We definitely did a better job this game than we did the first game. From that aspect, I feel like we did our job defensively. He is physical, he gets in there, he gets position and he can get off the ground.”
Ball State led 28-22 with 5:33 remaining in the first half, but Buffalo made its way back into the game and went into halftime with a 33-32 lead.
The Cardinals found themselves in foul trouble late in the first half which switched the rhythm of the game. In the first half, Ball State allowed the Bulls to the free-throw line 18 times.
“We have to do a better job of playing defense without fouling them,” El-Amin said. “I thought we did a good job defensively overall, but we definitely put them on the line a little too much. They are a big and physical team.”
Buffalo came out of the locker room and scored three-straight buckets in the paint forcing Whitford to call a timeout. He said Ball State needed to be better defensively in the paint in the second half. The Bulls scored 28 points in the paint for the game.
“They drove in there too much,” Whitford said. “Ronaldo Segu drove on the baseline a lot and they were just able to drive by us on the basket. We were not walling up and being physical inside. There was too much reaching down which gets called for a foul.”
Segu had 20 points and four assists and was another factor in Buffalo’s win. The Cardinals were led by El-Amin with 22 points followed by redshirt sophomore Jarron Coleman and redshirt senior forward Brachen Hazen with 11 points each.
Ball State’s shooting woes continued, as they shot 21 percent from deep and 32 percent from the field. Whitford believes they got the looks they needed, but the shots were not falling.
“I thought it was a hard game,” Whitford said. “Buffalo is a good team. I actually thought we did a lot of good things out there. We made our share of mistakes, especially with turnovers. I thought we had a tough shooting night as well. I do think we got a lot of good shots. It was closer than what the final score presented.”
Ball State looks to get back into the win column, as they play the best team in the Mid-American Conference with a matchup against Toledo (16-4, 11-1 MAC) Saturday, Feb. 6 at noon.
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