Ball State men's basketball's second loss to Miami (OH) is third straight defeat

<p>Junior forward Basheer Jihad puts the ball up for two against Miami Feb. 17 at Millet Hall. Jihad had 18 total points in the game. Andrew Berger, DN </p>

Junior forward Basheer Jihad puts the ball up for two against Miami Feb. 17 at Millet Hall. Jihad had 18 total points in the game. Andrew Berger, DN

OXFORD, Ohio– After a 21-point loss, one could have expected a fired up Michael Lewis when he sat down in a conference room deep in the annals of Millet Hall. Ball State men’s basketball’s head coach certainly wasn’t happy after a 80-59 defeat at the hands of Miami (OH), but he never raised his voice when recalling the 40 minutes that just passed. 

This was less than 30 minutes after Lewis earned a technical foul at the 6:25 mark in the second half, too. Junior forward Basheer Jihad was called for a questionable offensive foul, and Lewis couldn’t keep his cool any longer.

Lewis immediately shouted at the officials, needing to be held back by freshman guard Trent Middleton Jr. and coaches. It was within 30 seconds that he was awarded a technical for his troubles. 

“I’m gonna fight for my guys,” Lewis said. “They knew they were wrong, otherwise, they would have thrown me out, because I tried like Hell.” 

Jihad was in the middle of numerous dust ups throughout the game, drawing countless double team defenses when he had the ball down low. This led to a season-high nine turnovers, an area of his game Jihad has said in the past that he has wanted to improve on. 

He even had six turnovers the last time the two squads met. 

“I gotta be a lot better,” Ball State’s leading scorer said. “I need to get other guys open shots when they’re bringing two to me. We’re not getting what we need to.” 

The RedHawks (12-13, 6-6 MAC) forced a 15-9 deficit in turnovers. With just six games remaining, Jihad said in order to limit his turnovers, he needs to change his mental approach rather than his physical approach. 

In the same vein, Lewis said the biggest issue that plagued the Cardinals in their loss was the same as it has been throughout the season, a lack of poise when adversity comes their way. Miami (OH) hit four 3-pointers in a two-minute stretch in the second half, and that was the turning point for Ball State’s psyche, Lewis said. 

“It’s like Groundhog’s Day,” he continued. “Body language, heads drop, trying to get them to pick their heads up and just get to the next play, but then it really affected us.” 

Ball State only trailed 30-29 at halftime but allowed 50 points in the second half for a 20-point swing. Lewis said the biggest difference between the two halves came down to shot selection. Although Ball State actually finished with a higher field goal percentage in the second half (40.7 percent) than the first half (41.4 percent), Lewis said he was more satisfied with the types of shots the Cardinals took in the first half. 

Last time Ball State and Miami met, the RedHawks defeated the Cardinals 87-80 in overtime. Miami had five players in double figures, including a team-high 16 from senior center Anderson Mirambeaux. He earned his first start of the season Feb. 17 and matched his point total from the previous contest. 

However, freshman guard Eian Elmer dropped a team-high 18 points Feb. 17, the second of four RedHawks to score in double digits.

Jihad dropped a game-high 29 points in the previous loss and another game-high 18 points the second time out. Last time, he was joined by junior guard Jalin Anderson and redshirt junior Mickey Pearson Jr. in double figures. Pearson, who was originally penciled in for the starting lineup per usual, was a late scratch from the Feb. 17 contest and was replaced by freshman forward Mason Jones.

Lewis said Pearson woke up Friday morning with a “lower back issue,” didn’t practice Friday and tried to participate in pregame warmups before he told Lewis he couldn’t play. As to be expected, Lewis said this was a big blow to Ball State’s gameplan, as this was just the second game of the season Pearson hasn’t started. 

Something Lewis didn’t mention is perhaps the biggest issue that has plagued the Cardinals this season: bench depth. Against Miami, Ball State suffered a 29-2 deficit in bench points.

With just six games remaining in the season, the Cardinals sit at ninth in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) standings after three straight losses. In the remaining contests, Ball State plays two teams below it ( Northern Illinois and Eastern Michigan) and four teams above (Central Michigan, Western Michigan, Kent State and Bowling Green). 


Junior guard Davion Bailey drives for two points against Miami Feb. 17 at Millet Hall. Bailey had a total of 18 points against the Redhawks. Andrew Berger, DN

Western Michigan, in eighth, sits comfortably above Ball State with a 5-6 MAC record compared to the Cardinals’ 4-8 record. Both players and Lewis confirmed how important it is for Ball State to rite the ship in the next three weeks before the MAC championship tournament. 

“We all talk about aspirations to play further after the regular season, so if that means as much as we say, we're going to show up,” junior guard Davion Bailey said. 

Bailey, a transfer from Southeastern Community College, finished with 18 points in the loss to the RedHawks. While the pressure is on for all involved with Ball State men’s basketball to reach the tournament, it potentially weighs even more on Bailey who is seeking his first-ever appearance. 

“I want to be there for myself, but also for our team, because it's an opportunity for everyone,” Bailey said.

Although the Cardinals lost in the first round of the tournament last season, Lewis knows what it’s like to coach in Cleveland, Ohio. He even knows what it’s like to play on a stage beyond: the NCAA Tournament. That’s what is up for grabs at the end of the day. 

“I’ve never quit in anything I’ve done, and I try to get that message to these guys,” Lewis said. “You got to continue to fight through difficult things, you gotta figure it out, the answers aren't always going to jump out at you, you got to learn how to navigate life.

“Are we gonna be able to pack up and head to Northern Illinois on Tuesday and compete, and then come back on Saturday? What do you want to get out of this?”

The Cardinals (12-13, 4-8 MAC) return to action Tuesday, Feb. 20, when they complete the third leg of their road trip, traveling to Dekalb for an 8 p.m. matchup against Northern Illinois (9-16, 3-9 MAC).

Contact Kyle Smedley with comments via email at or on X @KyleSmedley_.


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