Poor execution and turnovers cost Ball State men's basketball against Central Michigan

Junior forward Basheer Jihad makes a drive to the basket against Oakland City Nov. 14 at Worthen Arena. Jihad had 6 rebounds in the game. Andrew Berger, DN
Junior forward Basheer Jihad makes a drive to the basket against Oakland City Nov. 14 at Worthen Arena. Jihad had 6 rebounds in the game. Andrew Berger, DN

There were 21 seconds left and Worthen Arena was loud. Ball State men’s basketball was down two to Central Michigan, but the Cardinals had just forced a turnover. 

Ball State had trailed its Mid-American Conference (MAC) rival for 16 minutes and now were in the best position of the second half to win the game. Half court offense, no shot clock, double bonus and starters on the floor. 

When junior guard Jalin Anderson got the ball off the inbound pass, he dribbled around the post for a full seven seconds, sure to either pass to one of his teammates or turn around for a short jumper. Instead, the Chippewas stole it right out of his hands and sealed an eventual 71-65 victory.

In fact, Ball State’s final four possessions ended in a turnover. 

“I'm gonna wrack my brain, going back in different scenarios, but I like what we had in every situation,” head coach Michael Lewis said. “We just turned the ball over.”

Lewis said this isn’t just a problem in crunch time, but it’s one Ball State has experienced for a full 40 minutes in numerous games this season.

“Basketball is a game of mistakes,” Lewis said. “Unfortunately, the team that wins normally makes the fewest mistakes, and right now we're making more – way more – than the other team.”

The second-year head coach said it’s one thing to make mistakes on one end of the court, but he feels like the Cardinals seem to dwell on their errors and negatively impact their play on the following possessions.

Lewis used junior guard Davion Bailey as an example when it came to the Cardinals’ struggle at moving on from their mistakes on the court. Although Lewis was referencing a sequence earlier in the game, Bailey committed the first of the final four turnovers for Ball State after a key stop on defense put the Cardinals within two points of Central Michigan.

That was one of just two turnovers for Bailey, and he led Ball State with a career-high 21 points. However, Bailey said he needs to be more sure of himself when the ball is in his hands to prevent costly turnovers in the future.

“We got to take intent with everything,” Bailey said. “I think it's just being strong with the ball.

“Mistakes happen. I just gotta move forward. It’s not always about me, it’s more about the team that it is about me.”

Junior guard Davion Bailey puts the ball in for two. Nov.14 against Oakland City at Worthen Arena. Isaiah Wallace, DN

When those mistakes do happen, Lewis said, he wants to see the Cardinals be better at picking up their teammates instead of having to always do it himself.

“I felt like I was a cheerleader out there at times, like Little League type of stuff,” Lewis said. “That's where we are right now, and we've got to be able to get over the hump. We've got to be able to do hard things better, and we have to be able to execute in the heart of the game.”

This was not only the Cardinals' fourth loss in a row, not only their second MAC loss in as many games, but their first home loss of the season.

Despite the loss, Lewis felt the Cardinals came out with a defensive intensity that lacked in Ball State’s Jan. 2 loss to Kent State and even in the second half against the Chippewas. After the loss to the Golden Flashes, Lewis said he didn’t think he was getting through to the Cardinals and may need to change his approach to Ball State’s preparation moving forward. 

However, he said that wasn’t the case in the days leading up to Central Michigan. 

“We got good guys, and they want to win,” Lewis said. 

Junior forward Basheer Jihad, who finished with a 16-point, 11-rebound double-double, thought Ball State brought more intensity than its previous three losses but still felt there is room to improve.

The Cardinals led four different times against their MAC rival, with their biggest source of success coming from the free throw line. Ball State shot a season-high 31 free throws and made 25 of them, including redshirt junior forward Mickey Pearson Jr. scoring all 10 of his points from the charity stripe. 

Junior forward Basheer Jihad, who finished with a 16-point, 11-rebound double-double, scored eight of his baskets from the line. He and Lewis said drawing fouls, in which Ball State drew 23, is always a main focus of the Cardinals’ offense. 

Central Michigan shot 14/17 from the line, but it was the Chippewas’ 3-point and bench attack that secured them victory. Sophomore guard Aidan Rubio led Central Michigan with 18 points and four 3-pointers, all off the bench. 

During a large portion of the second half, it seemed that every time Ball State picked up points at the free throw line, the Chippewas responded with a 3-pointer. The Cardinals’ bench was outscored 25-2 with only two members of the red and white’s bench seeing action.

Lewis said Ball State’s biggest detriment against Central Michigan was their execution out of the huddle. Rather than applying what he drew up on the sidelines, Lewis said the Cardinals often “break down” under pressure.

“We practice situations, and we throw it to the guy that you don't throw it to,” Lewis said.

Jihad, who had four of Ball State’s 13 turnovers, just shook his head in disappointment. 

“It's very frustrating,” Jihad said. “They hit some timely shots down the stretch, but it's a game we have to win. Execution errors, they’re gonna catch up with you and they did tonight.” 

The Cardinals host MAC opponent Akron Tuesday, January 9, at 7 p.m. in their next attempt at snapping their losing streak.

Contact Kyle Smedley with comments via email at kyle.smedley@bsu.edu or on X @KyleSmedley_.


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