'We learned a lot about ourselves': Ball State falls to Indiana State in Indy Classic

Junior guard Davion Bailey prepares to shoot while being surrounded by defense Dec. 16 against Indiana State at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Bailey played 23 minutes. Andrew Berger, DN
Junior guard Davion Bailey prepares to shoot while being surrounded by defense Dec. 16 against Indiana State at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Bailey played 23 minutes. Andrew Berger, DN

In the building that has been the residence to professional basketball players like Reggie Miller, Tyrese Haliburton, and Tamika Catchings, Gainbridge Fieldhouse became the temporary home for Ball State as the Cardinals danced with Indiana State in Saturday's Indy Classic. This marked the second consecutive year that Ball State has participated in the event. 

Yet this year’s matchup was a bit different because most of Ball State’s roster did not play for the Cardinals last season. This was the case for junior Davion Bailey, who is an Indianapolis native. 

“It was a blessing to come back home and play in front of my family and friends,” Bailey said. 

Though he was happy to play 20 minutes from his alma mater of Pike High School, his competition also gave him flashbacks of his high school career as Indiana State sophomore Ryan Conwell was a teammate on the Red Devils. 

“It’s just friendly competition and we’re always competing,” Bailey said. “Both of our families and our friends are here. It’s good to see how everyone came out to support us and allowed us to play in front of a great crowd.”

When no time was left on the jumbotron, the Cardinals walked to the locker room after falling 83-72.  While the result of the Ball State’s second-to-last non-conference game didn't end the way head coach Michael Lewis wanted, the positives outweighed the negatives.

“I’m proud of how we competed because I think we grew as a team,” he said. “We got better and learned a lot about ourselves.”

After the opening tip, the Cardinals didn’t waste any time to break down the Sycamore defense. They hit their first four shots – three two-pointers and a three-pointer – and grabbed an early 9-3 lead. 

However, that hot streak did not carry on as the Cardinals went 3-13 (23 percent) in the following minutes. During that time, the Sycamores found their rhythm on offense, in which they continued to find the bottom of the net going into halftime. 

Indiana State opened the second half with a 12-2 run, which gave them a 20-point lead over Ball State. Throughout the season, Lewis has talked about the Cardinals needing to do hard things. This situation was no different.

That is when the energy seemed to switch directions as the Cardinals’ offense returned to their starting form. Junior Jalin Anderson led the way with 18 points and eight rebounds. Behind him was freshman Mason Jones with 12 points. During the second half, Jones’ playstyle changed. He was more aggressive as he recorded two blocks and two steals.

Redshirt Junior center Ben Hendriks jumps in an attempt to block a shot Dec. 16 against Indiana State at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Ball State lost 83-72. Andrew Berger, DN

“[Jones] just plays hard and that's the thing that kind of separates him from a lot of guys,” Lewis said. “He got over himself a long time ago." 

In his first game back since being injured in Ball State’s win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Nov. 24, Bailey found his stride as he recorded 12 points. His ability to shoot the ball improved throughout the contest as he finished 5-for-8 (62.5 percent) and hit both of his three-point attempts.

“We haven't been able to run our kind of offense [in the last few games],” Lewis said. “But [with Bailey], we can get back to being who we thought we could be at the beginning of the year.”

The trip to Indiana's capital showed many things to the Cardinals’ second-year head coach. For one, the way the Sycamores challenged Ball State and found ways to defend key players like junior Basheer Jihad forced the red and white to find other ways to score. 

Yet the other takeaway didn't happen on the court or deal with X’s and O’s. It was what the tournament represented. 

“This is an unbelievable event,” Lewis said. “I told the [team] yesterday the way this event is run as far as the travel and where you're staying, it's the closest thing to an NCAA Tournament environment without playing in the NCAA Tournament.”

Ball State will return on Thursday, Dec. 21 when the Cardinals travel to face Minnesota. The game is set to start at 8 p.m. 

Contact Zach Carter with comments at zachary.carter@bsu.edu or on X @ZachCarter85


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