On Wednesday night, the Ball State Men’s Basketball welcomed Chicago State to Worthen Arena in its last game in 2022. It would prove to be a close final nonconference game before the start of the Mid-American Conference (MAC) season in January.
When the final buzzer screamed through the arena, the Cardinals would end the year on a high note, defeating the Cougars 70-63.
Head coach Michael Lewis’ squad started the night off slowly. The Cougars came out with a lot of energy, forcing the Cardinals to constantly pass the ball.
With the heavy passing came a lack of scoring and Ball State trailed for the majority of the first half. The Cougars had the lead for more than 13 minutes, while the Cardinals only led for just under six.
But it was not only the Cougars' defense. Ball State faltered from the floor, ending the first half 10-22 (45.5 percent), and went 4-10 (40 percent) from the 3-point line.
Even though the Cardinals had more baskets in the second half, the percentages were not much better. They finished the contest going 24-46 (52.2 percent) and went 6-19 (31.6 percent) from deep. Luckily, Chicago State did not shoot much better. They went 22-59 (37.3 percent), and 8-21 (38.1 percent) on 3-point shooting.
To coach Lewis, these types of games are an important piece to his team’s success.
“I think there's a ton of growth when there is a struggle,” he said. The last two games have been difficult because of our opponents and their style of play, and we've got to continue to grow and improve.”
Ball State is in the top ten of college basketball when it comes to getting to the foul line. This factor has helped the squad multiple times this season. However, after going 16-33 (48.5 percent) from the line, the team missed out on a lot of points.
“I love the fact that we got to the free throw line 33 times,” coach Lewis said. “You know, no, I wouldn't expect them to shoot forty percent, but it is a part of who we are.
Usual scorers for Ball State were silent during the first half. But redshirt junior guard Jarron Coleman made enough noise. He seemed to be open every time the ball was in his hands.
“It's good to have multiple guys that you can go to,” Lewis said. “I think that's the strength of our team. In college basketball, there's normally at least one, you know, poor defender on the court. And we're able to exploit that in a lot of ways because of our ability to play on the perimeter.”
Coleman ended the first half with 12 points while sophomore center Payton Sparks led the team with six rebounds.
Coming out of halftime, the Cardinals started to find a groove. Sophomore guard Jaylin Sellers did not score in the first half but shined during the second. From swishing threes to layups that drew fouls, he had the Worthen Arena crowd on their feet.
“During the second half, coach[Lewis] was talking to DJ and he was like, no good player can be stopped by cutting off one side of their hand,” Sellers said. “So when I heard that, I took that personally because I felt like I let them shave me one way and then I just stopped going to the ball.”
Leaders for Ball State at the end of the game were Colemon with 16 points and Sellers with 14. Sparks finished the game leading the team with eight rebounds and four assists.
With the first half of the 2022-2023 season over, coach Lewis thinks there are some aspects that his team needs to clean up.
“We've got to become a better defensive rebounding team,” he said. “It doesn't take any skill or talent to be good at defensive rebounding. It takes a lot of heart. We gave up 15 offensive rebounds tonight. That's way too many.”
With the first season in the Michael Lewis era being halfway finished, the new head coach received credit from Purdue head coach Matt Painter.
“Paint and I joke about this all the time,” coach Lewis said. “I love everything about him except where he coaches you know, and we laugh and joke about it. He's a guy that, in my career as a young assistant and as I've gotten older, he's a guy that I always seek out when we're out on the recruiting trail. One, he's just an enjoyable guy to be around. And then you know, he's been very open and honest and helpful with me in my career when I've had questions.”
For their next matchup, the Cardinals will travel to face Toledo on Tuesday, Jan. 3, at 7 pm.
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