Now in the consolation bracket and looking to get back on the winning side of the Baha Mar Hoops Championship Tournament, Ball State defeated Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) opponent Missouri State 67-64.
Coming off from the loss to Vermont yesterday, the Cardinals (4-2) looked to bounce back with a stern concentration on the points of emphasis preached by head coach Michael Lewis. Ball State looked solid as they orchestrated plays to get every player on the floor involved and worked smarter not harder.
The loss to Vermont helped the Cardinals reflect on the missed opportunities and common mistakes. Vermont is known as an NCAA Tournament team and it showed yesterday with its keen motive to take advantage of Ball State's mistakes.
“You don't get opportunities to play programs with success like Vermont, and there are positives we can take from that game," Lewis said. “We had an opportunity to win and we just fell short, we didn't make enough plays but today we did."
The Cardinals came in the game hot today with the help from sophomore center Payton Sparks who led the time in points and rebounds.
Sparks had 24 points, a 13-point increase from yesterday's loss, with 12 rebounds and made his first career 3-pointer on a set play assisted by sophomore forward Basheer Jihad to go into halftime with an 8-0 scoring run.
The point that Lewis frequently makes is that it’s not always going to be the point from big man Sparks that gets the Cardinals the win in most games.
“It’s about his presence on the floor, the attention he demands, also he is a willing passer," Lewis said. “So whether or not “P” [Payton] hits that shot [3-pointer] doesn't really matter, we did what we were supposed to do, and that's how you build a good team.”
Ball State was forced to rise to the occasion in the second half after Missouri State (2-3) came into the second half with a 38-35 lead, but that didn’t discourage the Cardinals. Ball State held Missouri State to 9 of 30 (30 percent) on field goals in the second half, and majorly stopped the perimeter shot by forcing the Bear to shoot 2 of 11 (18 percent) from the 3-point line through the course of the second half.
Lewis appreciated how the Cardinals came together with the effort to find ways to get stops and not let the Bears take advantage of any missed opportunities.
"It was good to have some more attention to detail on a couple of things that we can control like the scouting report and things that we stress," Lewis said. "We have to make them beat us in something they’re uncomfortable doing, and don't let them play to their strengths."
The defensive willpower of the Cardinals was put to the test as the Bears went on an 8-0 scoring run in the last minute of the game forcing four Ball State turnovers mainly off inbound plays in a full-court press set.
The Cardinals had to buckle down and stay calm through this game moment. They did and closed out to hold control of their lead to win the game. Lewis expressed how the team deserved to be in the position of winning; they just had to finish the job.
“We talked about just being confident and being strong with the ball, keeping them in the right frame of mind," Lewis said. "Making sure you know coming back runs into the fight, they have earned the right to win this game."
The Cardinals look to continue their current winning streak and end the Baha Mar Hoops Championship Tournament on a positive note as they face San Jose State tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. in the fifth place game.