The script changed dramatically Wednesday as visiting Ohio drilled a season-best 13 3-pointers on 18 attempts (72.2%) to stoke an 82-73 Bobcat win. With the treys playing an important part in the decision, Cardinals head coach James Whitford expressed some concern
“That’s happened two of our last three games where we’ve had guards light us up,” Whitford said. “We have to go back and look in the mirror, do a self-check. Last year, we were first or second in the league in 3-point defense, and this year … generally speaking it’s something we do very well.”
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Ohio guards Javarez Willis, a nephew of former NBA great Karl Malone, and Stevie Taylor combined for 45 points. Willis made 7-of-9 shots from the 3-point line on the way to 27 points, and Taylor (7-of-8 overall) hit all three of his long shots while scoring 18.
“When you lose four in a row, man, at some point you have to get fed up with it,” said Willis, who played two seasons at Texas Tech before transferring to Ohio. “I was just determined. I didn’t want to lose tonight.”
Whitford withheld judgment on why his team was so susceptible to the 3-point shot in this game, but he suspected a defensive shortfall and a hot opponent combined to produce the result.
“It certainly was some of both,” he said. “I’ll wait to watch it on film before I give you the full feedback, but I’m very confident we could have defended (Willis) better.”
Ball State, which has lost three straight games, fell behind 40-32 at halftime when its 10 turnovers led to 20 of the Bobcats’ points.
The Cardinals turned the ball over just two times in the second half, but Ohio’s newfound shooting prowess kept Ball State at bay every time it attempted a run.
One such moment came five minutes into the second half when Sean Sellers chased down a loose ball in the corner on Ball State’s offensive end. He gathered the ball and threw it to Jeremiah Davis as he was falling out of bounds.
“I didn’t even really see JD,” Sellers said. “I was just trying to tip it back in play, and JD caught the ball.”
Davis dribbled into the lane and kicked the ball to Francis Kiapway on the perimeter. Kiapway nailed a 3-point shot in front of the Ball State bench to bring the Cardinals within 49-47.
What could have been a game-changing momentum play instead provided no steam for the Cardinals. Taylor hit 3-point shots on Ohio’s next two offensive possessions, sparking a 17-4 run that put the Bobcats (6-10, 1-4 MAC) on top 66-51 with 8:15 to play.
“Every time (we got close) they came back and it was 3, 3, 3 … every time something like that happened, bam!” Whitford said.
Kiapway led a quartet of double-figure scorers for Ball State with 19 points. Sellers added 16, Davis 12 and Bo Calhoun 11. Calhoun grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds for his first double-double of the season.
The Cardinals played without starting point guard Zavier Turner, who was in uniform but sat on the bench the entire game.
“That was my decision for what is in the best interest of the program, period,” Whitford said. “I’ll leave it at that. Where we go from here is to be determined.”
The Cardinals are back in action Saturday (2 p.m. ET) at home against Kent State. Ohio hosts Buffalo (2 p.m.).
(Courtesy of BSU Athletics)