BY SAM ROTH | Ball State Sports Link
Wednesday’s tilt between the Oklahoma Sooners and the Ball State Cardinals was the first meeting between the two programs. The Sooners went into this game with an impressive 5-0 record against MAC schools and really never gave doubters a belief it would change in this contest.
Oklahoma came out with swagger, hitting the first four of its five 3-pointers in the first three minutes. Each shot seemingly more heartless than the next one. The Cardinals’ defenders could have contested with Mr. Fantastic elastic arms, and it still probably wouldn’t have mattered.
So before the game felt like it had even started, it was over as Ball State dig itself a 16-3 hole.
Coach Whitford called a timeout and tried to rally the troops. But the game would never get closer than it was at that point. Ball State struggled to find any semblance of chemistry on the floor.
Oklahoma came out with a fast pace on both ends of the floor, jumping into passing lanes and pressuring Ball State’s ball handlers into early turnovers.
An overall careless protection of the ball is what killed the Cardinals as they finished 10 total turnovers in the first half. Passes were off target, and when they were on target, the recipients seemed unprepared to receive them.
“I want to give Lon Kruger and Oklahoma a lot of credit,” Ball State coach James Whitford said. “They made it very hard for us to get anything entered in our offense, and we panicked. We put our head down and tried to drive to the rim, and they’re too good and athletic to not play offense the right way. We paid a dear price for that, and it will be a great lesson.”
We knew going into this game that Oklahoma had a high-powered offense and Ball State’s best way to keep up would to be to fight fire with fire.
However, turnovers prevented Ball State shooters from ever being in sync with the rest of the offense. The team finished shooting 30 percent from the field. Oklahoma outscored the Cardinals 48-22 in the paint.
Some notes on the positive side:
- Tajhai Teague had another solid night on the glass, snatching 10 rebounds with five of them being on the offensive end. I showed the first missed dunk above, but Teague had two of them last night. He started both with a nice pump fake and some nice strides to the basket to create separation, but just didn’t get the extra air he needed to finish either. I jumped out of my seat both times it happened, and admire the effort. This guy is never afraid when he is on the floor, and when Trey Moses fully comes back , I wouldn’t tamper with his minutes. Don’t get discouraged big fella.
- His night will be overshadowed by the loss, but Jontrell Walker had a cool 23 points in 23 minutes. He must have been in the Oklahoma huddle to start the game because his shooting was just as lights out (5-for-8 from 3-point range). Anytime this guy was given a little space he pulled the trigger and it worked. On a team that is built to live and die by the three, Ball State should do more of what he did tonight.
- Kyle Mallers had the bounce back game we were all hoping for. His game consisted of a lot of trickery, as he threw out hesitation moves and fake passes like candy. The opposing defense really never knew what his next move was going to be, and he kept them guessing en route to a silent 17 points on the night.
- Last week I said it didn’t bother me that Taylor Persons didn’t look for his shot. This was a game where I would have been okay with more from him. Five attempts just doesn’t feel like enough for the shot-creating ability he has shown us. The stepback jumper he pulls when he drives feels like it has gone in everytime he has attempted it. However, he continued to serve his teammates with six assists, more than half of the team’s total.
- I continue to be impressed by Zach Gunn, even though he had a bad shooting night. He’s one of the few players on this team who is able to create separation with a good first step, and then able to adjust his shot in traffic. Once this team has more threats that can attack the basket, teams won’t be able to play as tight as Oklahoma did on the Cardinals tonight.
- The Cardinals will look for their first win of the season Friday against Stony Brook, who will also be looking for its first win in the young season.
Watch The Process
Formerly known as Out of the Shadows, the monthly show has now been transformed into a weekly series throughout the season called The Process, presented by Stoops Buick GMC.
The Process will still provide the same access to and feature storytelling on the team, but will expand to more stories surrounding the program and now deliver those in shorter, more consumable content on digital platforms each week.