By: Adam Altobella
On the heels of the largest win in program history, the Ball State Cardinals fell to their in-state rival Indiana State by a score of 83-71 on Saturday, November 12.
The Cardinals struggled mightily in the first half, which forced them to play from behind the entire afternoon. In the first half alone, Ball State conceded 11 turnovers, and shot the ball at a 36.4% clip from the field. The squad’s offensive woes and inability to prevent dribble penetration led to a 12-point deficit at the half.
Michael Lewis, toeing the sideline in just his second game as the Cardinals’ head man, led a more focused team out of the locker room after halftime. In the second half of the Cardinal-Sycamore battle, Ball State shot the ball at an improved 48.1% from the field, and 55.6% from three. Defensively, the Cardinals forced a lower field goal percentage from their opponents, and blocked three shots.
Despite a better second half showing and drawing the game within two possessions, the squad could not overcome its first half miscues, and fell 83-71.
As with any early season loss, there are positive and negative points of reflection after this game.
Beginning on a positive note, Ball State had another great performance by two of its savvy guards: Jarron Coleman and Demarius Jacobs. Coleman led all scorers with a breakout 29 point outing. The Indianapolis product converted on 7 three point attempts, tied for third most in program history, and was the primary offensive weapon all game. Demarius Jacobs followed up his 19 point opening night performance with a double-double. Jacobs scored 12 points, and grabbed 10 rebounds.
Payton Sparks overcame initial struggles with Indiana State’s defensive pressure to manufacture an impressive game. The 6’9", 240 lbs Sparks put up 18 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 blocks. He also drew 7 fouls from the Sycamores, a feat which fans have grown accustomed to.
Jaylin Sellers, a 2022 MAC All-Freshman Team honoree, appeared in his first game of the season, after missing both the exhibition game and the opener due to injury. Sellers only scored 3 points, but this game was a step in the right direction for the sophomore with immense potential.
Finally, Ball State as a unit was successful on the glass. Although not reflected in the score, the Cardinals rebounded the ball well all game, and outrebounded a sizable Indiana State team 38-30. 18 of the 38 rebounds were pulled down on the offensive end, which has to please an effort-obsessed coach like Lewis.
On the flip side, the Cardinals’ first loss of the 2022-2023 campaign exposed some areas that deserve attention in practice.
Most obviously, Lewis’s bunch needs to clean up its ball movement, and fix its turnover problems. Ball State put together a 9/19 assist-to-turnover ratio against Indiana State, a far cry from the 23/10 ratio against Earlham. Racking up turnovers allowed Indiana State to score 23 points on fast breaks, and prevented the Cardinals from running their offense.
Luke Bumbalough, one of Ball State’s all-time most prolific three point shooters, has struggled thus far in Lewis’s system. The New Castle, Indiana native was scoreless against Indiana State, and scored just 4 points against Earlham. Through his first two games last season, he had scored 29 points, and was a force on both ends of the floor. Bumbalough has potential to impact this team’s success, and future practices and games could lift him from his slump.
Finally, the Cardinals saw little production from their bench players. Although a good portion of the team’s points were scored off the bench against DIII Earlham, only 10 of the team’s 71 points were scored by bench players against Indiana State. Further, the Cardinals relied on starters Coleman, Jacobs, and Sparks to each play over 32 minutes.
In winning this game, the Sycamores avenged their 97-75 loss to Ball State last season. ISU was led in scoring by Cooper Neese, a former high school standout at Cloverdale High School, who scored 17 points. Two transfers, Courvoisier McCauley (via DePaul) and Trenton Gibson (via DII Tusculum), provided a spark that was not present last year, scoring 14 points and 12 points, respectively.
Ball State fell to 1-1 after its loss in Terre Haute. The Cardinals will play their third game of the young season on Wednesday, November 16, against the Omaha Mavericks, another team that they beat last year.