Offenses confuse opposing defenses in how they run plays and execute sets.
“Sometimes, there's things that are tricky, that are confusing, but that wasn't the problem tonight,” head coach James Whitford said. “The stuff that we have to do tonight, it's really just chopping wood.”
In its 89-85 overtime win against Ball State (11-12, 6-6 MAC), Central Michigan (6-14, 5-4 MAC) shot 14-for-31 from the 3-point line and continuously ran pick-and-roll actions with freshman guard Kevin Miller and graduate student forward Harrison Henderson.
Whitford said the effort was not an issue for the Cardinals, but said the Chippewas use of ball screens placed Ball State in tough positions defensively.
“There are other teams that it's more complex, its understanding different schemes, but that wasn’t an issue today,” Whitford said. “Payton [Sparks] just needs more reps on being able to stay in the game and defend pick-and-rolls. We put him in a tough spot because we play him a lot, so he’s out there tired a lot, but he’s a really good player, so those are kind of your choices.”
Freshman center Payton Sparks finished with his fourth consecutive double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds, but accumulated five personal fouls. Sparks said Central Michigan forced him to defend guards along the perimeter, but said he was prepared and knows he will improve defending opposing guards.
“Coach [Whitford] puts me through these situations day in [and] day out in practice,” Sparks said. “He trusts in me and [I] just [have to] keep coming in every day and keep going into games and working on it. All the guards in this league are good, I just have to get better at it.”
Sparks said the cutting and movement from Central Michigan offense caused issues but believes Ball State will solve its defensive miscues by watching film and utilizing practice.
“I think it's film and just learning from that,” Sparks said. “I think just coming into practice, working on it, not hanging our heads about it. [We’ll] still look at it and still get better.”
Freshman guard Jaylin Sellers played a career-high 28 minutes and scored nine points. He recorded four steals and one block, and Whitford said his willingness to defend and take challenging matchups is important for Ball State’s defensive identity.
“He's very accepting, he's been that guy all year, and it's going to help us a lot,” Whitford said. “I thought he changed the game for us defensively down the stretch, and I thought it really changed when we put him on [Kevin] Miller, so we need him out there. It's hard to take him off the floor with what he gives us defensively right now.”
Moving forward, Sparks isn’t worried about his teammates attention to detail and said the Cardinals will learn from their defensive lapses against the Chippewas because of their mindset to improve.
“I think they'll be very receptive,” Sparks said. “We all want to get better, we have a great team and everyone wants to get better every day. I think we'll get better and look at the film.”
Ball State returns to the floor Feb. 12 against Buffalo (11-8, 5-4 MAC). Tipoff is 2 p.m.