In its third road contest in the last four games, Ball State Men’s Basketball (7-10, 2-4 MAC) lost agaisnt Toledo (14-4, 6-1 MAC) 83-70 Jan. 18.
“We gave up huge runs,” head coach James Whitford said. “I thought that was the difference in the game.”
Ball State held a 17-11 with 14 minutes and 18 seconds remaining in the first half, but the Rockets scored 17 consecutive points to take the lead. Whitford said the Cardinals did not respond well to the run and it showed in their effort.
“I just thought we got a little overwhelmed in moments like that,” Whitford said. “When the game was going hard for us, you could see a dip in our energy level. You could see a dip in our toughness.”
Freshman center Payton Sparks recorded his third consecutive double-double with 17 points and 14 rebounds. Sparks said he is more concerned about helping Ball State win than his individual performance.
“[I’m] just really playing harder [and] digging deep,” Sparks said. “I’m just pushing through the fatigue when I’m out there. I just want to win, I want to do anything for the team to win.”
While on the other side of runs, Sparks believes the Cardinals can benefit from communicating and coming closer together.
“I just think we need to come together more when things are falling apart,” Sparks said. ‘Come close as a team, things succeed more.
Freshman guard Jaylin Sellers scored eight points and shot 2-of-2 from the free-throw line, and Whitford said his “competitive character” stood out along with Sparks.
“I thought Jaylin [Sellars] gave us a real bright spot, gave us a real lift,” Whitford said. “Jaylin played 22 minutes tonight, we were plus three in his 22 minutes.”
The Rockets led by as much as 27 points, and Sparks said Ball State knew how capable they were and believes the loss served as a lesson for the Cardinals.
“Toledo is a very smart team,” Sparks said. “They got really smart players, smart coaches. They’re a tough team to play, we knew that coming in. They’re just a really good team and it was a good test for us.”
Toledo was paced by sophomore guard Ryan Rollins with 24 points. Rollins connected on 3-of-3 from the 3-point line and grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds.
Ball State returns to action Jan. 22 against Central Michigan. Tipoff is 7 p.m.