Windham, Sparks serve as kickstarts for Cardinals in win against Omaha

Junior guard Jalen Windham (24) goes for a layup against Omaha at Worthen Arena Nov. 13. Windham led the Cardinals in scoring with 14 points against the Mavericks. Jacy Bradley, DN
Junior guard Jalen Windham (24) goes for a layup against Omaha at Worthen Arena Nov. 13. Windham led the Cardinals in scoring with 14 points against the Mavericks. Jacy Bradley, DN

Junior guard Jalen Windham has made strides from his first to second year for Ball State Men's Basketball (1-1), and it was evident in the Cardinals 73-69 win against Omaha (1-1) Nov. 13.

Windham led all players off the bench in minutes (20), and scored a career-high 14 points. Windham shot 4-of-5 from three, and credited his performance beyond the arc to his movement without the ball.

"It's very important," Windham said. "We are not going to get a lot of touches not moving without the ball, so, especially for me, there's scouting reports now. That's something I just lock in on every day, I know that I'll make our team better if I just continue to do the right things."

Head Coach James Whitford believes Windham returned to Ball State in the summer 'in great shape.' Whitford believes Windham's shooting display is a representation of letting the game come to him.

"I think he's a more complete player," Whitford said. "At the end, he was frustrated because he is our best free throw shooter in practice and shoots the highest percentage, and he went to the line at a crucial time and missed two, then he came down next time, got to the rim and got a really good layup, it just didn't go in. I was like, 'You're going to make shots, you're going to miss shots.' It's about playing the right way, (and) I thought he was doing a good job playing the right way."

Freshman center Payton Sparks puts up the ball for two against Omaha at Worthen Arena Nov. 13. The Cardinals will face off against Florida International in the Jersey Mike's Classic in St. Petersburg, Fla. Nov. 18. Jacy Bradley, DN

Freshman center Payton Sparks scored 13 points and pulled down five rebounds. Sparks believes the Cardinals emphasis on paint touches opened up the perimeter, where they converted 11-of-24 from three.

"It opens up alot, (it) gets guards shots," Sparks said. "I like to pass the ball, I like to get them the ball first, and then if I'm open, I'll take it. I think it opens up the offense alot and we get better shots of it."

In the 2020-21 season, Windham averaged 3.6 points and made appreances in 11 games. Although he's coming off the bench, Windham is confident because of last years experience, but also the continuous reps in practice.

"It felt good for me, because my job is to come in and just bring energy off the bench," Windham said. "Last year, I kind of struggled, I was in and out, but finally getting the opportunity to be out there. Practices are obviously helping me right now, it's big for me, confdience wise."

Windham and the Cardianls return to the floor Nov. 18 against Florida International in the first of game of the Jersey Mikes Classic. Tipoff is 8 p.m.

Contact Charleston Bowles with comments at clbowles@bsu.edu or on Twitter @cbowles01.

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