The IUPUI men’s basketball team fell to in-state opponent Ball State, 85-75, Saturday.
Both teams got off to a slow start. The Jags attacked down low early and often, and Ball State found opportunities to score by pushing the ball up the sideline rather than setting up an offense. The Cardinals jumped out early to an 13-8 lead through coast-to-coast fast breaks.
The Jaguars turned up the defense six minutes into the game with steals for easy fast break layups by D.J McCall and Cam Justice to take a short lived 14-13 lead. The Jags struggled to hold onto a few defensive rebounds that Ball State capitalized off with uncontested shot attempts.
“We’ve got to work on winning those 50-50 balls,” head coach Jason Gardner said. “We just have to have a better start at the beginning of the game.”
The Jags found their rhythm near the eight-minute mark with Justice hitting three consecutive 3-pointers and strong defense from the rest of the team to suppress Ball State’s efforts with an efficient zone defense. Justice converted his first eight attempts on the night and led the Jags going into halftime with 19 points. Justice’s contribution wasn’t enough for a lead as the Jags trailed Ball State 44-40.
In the second half, the Jag’s Evan Hall got into foul trouble early, picking up his third personal foul in the first minute. The Jags were again steady in their attack with dribble penetration and passes to the big men down low, but Hall’s absence was felt as IUPUI was unable to get past the Cardinals’ size, missing the mark on several attempts in the paint.
Emotions ran high in the game as IUPUI amassed a season high in fouls with 24. Center Ahmed Ismail received a technical foul after slamming a ball toward an opponent when he could not collect a foul from multiple double and triple teams that stifled him. Ismail fouled out with 7:07 left in the second period.
“I think that’s the advantage that we have, we can go nine or 10 guys,” Gardner said. “We got into foul trouble, but we had guys ready to step up.”
As Ball State continued to complete critical shots late into the second period, guard Jalen Minnett did not back down from the challenge, scoring 12 of his 15 total points on the night in the second period to bring the Jags within five points at 72-67 with four minutes left in regulation. IUPUI would get no closer as they flame out to end the game.
“We made runs that we needed to make to fight our way out of the hole, but down the stretch, when we needed them to miss, they hit every big shot,” Justice said. “There are no steps back here, it was a tough loss, and I’m sure no one expected us to win this game. The only people who really believed we could win this game are behind me in this locker room, we’re going to continue ignoring the noise and getting ready each and every day.”
The Jaguars return to action Dec. 6 at home versus Indiana University-Kokomo.