Valpo outscored Ball State by nine points in the second half after trailing by three at the break and defended its home court with a 79-73 win at the Athletics-Recreation Center.
Senior forward Franko House joined . . .
However, the Cardinals (3-3) turned the ball over 23 times in the game, including 13 in the second half. Valparaiso (6-1) had success trapping the Ball State big men and stealing passes out of the post.
When the Cardinals didn't turn the ball over, they got the shots they were looking for and knocked them down. Francis Kiapway and Ryan Weber had breakout games shooting the ball after early-season struggles, with each scoring 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting.
Kiapway knocked down his first two 3-point attempts to help Ball State build an early lead, while Weber connected on a pair and was successful going to the rim. Kiapway, a 40 percent 3-point shooter for his career, struggled to find his stroke in the opening five games but busted out with a 3-for-6 performance from behind the arc Sunday.
Ball State shot 51 percent (27 of 53) for the game to Valpo's 42 percent
"I thought Francis and Ryan both played the game with confidence and played aggressive," Whitford said. "It was good to see those guys come to life a little bit.
"We did enough good things. The good news is we know we're capable of beating these guys if we play to the best of our ability. The bad news is we have a ways to go before we are consistently playing the game to the best of our ability."
Ball State led by as many as seven on multiple occasions in the first half, the last time at the 1:02 mark after a lay-in from Trey Moses. The sophomore big man finished with 13 points and nine rebounds.
The Cardinals locked in defensively on Valpo's Alec Peters, an honorable mention All-American who averages 25 points per game. He scored just two points in the opening 19 minutes before Ball State fouled him twice in the final minute of the first half, leading to four made free throws.
Peters went on to score a game-high 23 points, including 11 at the foul line. Shane Hammink added 16 points for Valpo, and Lexus Williams had 14.
Ball State took a 33-30 lead into halftime, and the teams jockeyed back and forth early in the second half. The Cardinals held a 44-42 advantage with nearly 15 minutes to play before Valparaiso went on a 9-0 run to grab a 51-44 lead.
Ball State was within two after a Sean Sellers 3-pointer with 10 minutes to play but could get no closer. Valpo seemed to answer any basket the Cardinals made, with Peters and Hammink doing most of the damage in the lane or at the foul line.
"I thought we got a little bit soft in the second half, but I thought we played good defensive basketball for 30-32 minutes," Whitford said. "Then, in end, they started to wear us out inside. We have to get tougher defensively to be able to put together 40 minutes.
"But we did some good things on the defensive end. I don't want to take anything away from Valparaiso; they're really good. And I'm not down on our guys. We just know we can be a lot better than we are right now."
Sunday's game was the fourth in a row away from home for Ball State, which has only played one home game in the first six. The Cardinals will now return to Muncie for six straight at Worthen Arena, starting Tuesday at 7 p.m. against IU Kokomo.
(Courtesy of BSU Athletics)