BY CONNOR ONION | Radio Voice of Ball State Football on WCRD 91.3 FM
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IUPUI Slip Up
Ball State led by as many as 11 points in the second half Saturday in a 73-62 setback against in-state rival IUPUI.
Two different IUPUI veterans took over the game.
In the first half, it was Matt O’Leary who rattled off 12 straight points late to keep the Jaguars within striking distance after falling down by eight.
In the second half, Darell Combs tormented Ball State for the second straight season.
After a four-point first half for the Eastern Michigan transfer, Combs exploded for 17 second-half points, including the go ahead three with just over seven minutes remaining. IUPUI never relinquished the lead after.
Despite shooting 2-for-8 from the free-throw line in the first half, Ball State went into the break with a seven-point advantage, thanks to shooting 48 percent from the field.
The second half was a different story.
IUPUI outscored the Cardinals 44-26 in the second 20 minutes, including an 11-1 run to take the lead.
“Defensively in the second half I thought we fell apart,” Ball State Head Coach James Whitford said.
On the other end, IUPUI put the clamps down on Ball State’s two best players, Franko House (4 points) and Tayler Persons (7 points).
The man responsible for guarding Persons was Fort Wayne product D.J. McCall. After being thrust into action in the second half to guard Persons, the Cardinals point guard managed a mere two points.
“[McCall] came in and punked us,” Persons said, citing film study on IUPUI that did not lead Persons to believe he was matched up with an elite defender.
“The reality is we aren’t playing well right now,” Whitford added.
The Cardinals have a chance for redemption Tuesday night in the form of Bradley (4-4).
Revenge On The Line Against Young Braves
Ball State opened the 2015-16 season in Peoria, Ill., with a 54-53 defeat to Bradley.
Ryan Weber served part of a suspension in the game against the Braves. His offense was missed as the Cardinals shot just 36 percent from the field — a season worst.
At that time, Bradley was the youngest team in the nation with 10 freshmen on the roster.
In 2016-17, youth is still the theme for the Braves as they look to make it two in a row against Ball State.
Over 75 percent of the scoring has come from underclassmen this season. They are the only team in the Missouri Valley Conference without a senior.
If Ball State wants revenge they will have to slow Bradley in transition.
“This is the fastest team we’ve seen,” Whitford informed his players in practice Monday.
From the point guard through the power forward, four men can create transition opportunities for Bradley off of a Ball State miss.
The up-tempo attack has led to more buckets than a season ago. The Braves are averaging 73 points per game, a 17-point increase from a season ago.
To stop the Braves, the Cardinals must stop Darrell Brown.
Brown, a freshman, leads the team averaging more than 14 points per game.
A couple weeks ago against Hofstra, Brown dropped 34 points. That scoring mark was the most for a freshman in the Missouri Valley Conference since three-time All American Doug McDermott produced 31 points vs. Davidson in 2011.
A win against Bradley would be an excellent start to what Coach Whitford calls a ‘critical month’ for Ball State.
“It’s a long season, and we have plenty of time, but we have some warts we have to correct,” Whitford said.
The first step in removing those warts: revenge.