Sophomore guard Tyler Cochran previously scored a career-high 26 points while playing for Northern Illinois in the 2020-21 season against Buffalo Feb. 23, 2021.
In his first matchup against the Bulls since, Cochran set a new career-high with 28 points in Ball State’s (7-9, 2-2 MAC) 74-68 loss against Buffalo (9-6, 3-2 MAC) Jan. 14.
“First, I’d like to give credit to my teammates for putting me in a position to even have a chance to score 28,” Cochran said.
Head Coach James Whitford said the Cardinals needed Cochran to excel against the Bulls pressure defense and attack downhill.
“We needed him today,” Whitford said. “He played well against Buffalo a year ago. Buffalo’s style is so extended, and they're trying to not let us catch passes on the perimeter. Tyler is so good at going down and getting to the basket, so this style of play tonight was one that we put him in position and we needed him out there. We needed somebody that could break down the pressure and I thought that he did a great job.”
Cochran said he didn't see anything specifically from Buffalo defensively, but instead found his open spots and played within his game.
“I took what they [Buffalo] gave me, just looking to be aggressive," Cochran said. "That’s what my teammates and coaches want to see, somebody who just makes the right plays, be aggressive and plays my style of game.”
Cochran finished 9-of-19 from the field and said his comfort attacking the rim against smaller guards and bigger opponents comes from the Cardinals strength and conditioning program.
“Credit to my strength and conditioning coach here for even putting me in position to even feel comfortable with that,” Cochran said. “I feel like I can close out smaller guards but its whatever is best for the team.”
Freshman center Payton Sparks recorded his second consecutive double-double with 18 points and a career-high 16 rebounds. Cochran grabbed nine rebounds, and Sparks said the Cardinals understand how important team rebounding is moving forward.
“We've just been trying all season long,” Sparks said, “Coach [Whitford] has been saying we have to get rebounds, and I wanted to help the team and just try to grab every board I can.”
Ball State scored 17 points off turnovers and finished with 13 fastbreak points. Sparks said the transition offense provides several possibilities for the Cardinals and can produce alot of points.
“I think we’re really good in transition,” Sparks said. “We push the ball, we score 60-70 percent of the time, so [if] we push the ball, I think we’ll be in good hands.”
Ball State travels to Toledo (12-4, 4-1 MAC) Jan. 18. Tipoff is 7 p.m.