Buzzer breakdown: 3 takeaways from Ball State’s 74-68 MAC loss vs. Buffalo

MUNCIE, Ind. — Ball State (7-9, 2-3 MAC) dropped its second straight conference game, losing 74-68 against Buffalo (9-6, 3-2 MAC) on national television.

The loss marked the second time this season the Cardinals lost at Worthen Arena, this time in front of 3,563 fans, and their fourth-straight loss to Buffalo. In the second half, Ball State trailed by as many as nine and led by as many as two before Buffalo went on a late run to take a 73-63 advantage with 1:20 left.

While Ball State was able to make it a two-possession game with 32.9 seconds left, its inconsistencies led to its third MAC loss in four games.

Here are three takeaways from the Cardinals’ defeat:

Ball State struggles to find offensive consistency

Between the turnovers, rushed shots, offensive fouls and missed 3-pointers, Ball State couldn’t seem to get out of its own way on offense, particularly in the first half.

The Cardinals had 10 turnovers in the first 20 minutes and allowed Buffalo, which averaged seven steals per game, to record six steals in the first 20 minutes. The Cardinals also struggled shooting 3-pointers, its biggest strength on offense, and, at one point, rushed a second half shot because they didn’t realize the shot clock was running down following an in-bounds play.

Ball State's Luke Brown shoots past Buffalo's defense during their game at Worthen Arena Friday, Jan. 14, 2022. Ball State's Luke Brown shoots past Buffalo's defense during their game at Worthen Arena Friday, Jan. 14, 2022.

Ball State’s Luke Brown shoots past Buffalo’s defense during their game at Worthen Arena Friday, Jan. 14, 2022.

Ball State did clean up offensively as it finished with 11 turnovers compared to Buffalo’s 13 and gave up just one steal in the second half. Buffalo held a 15-5 advantage in assists but the Cardinals had more second chance points (15-14), points off turnovers (17-9), points in the paint (32-26) and fast break points (13-12).

Still, Buffalo shot 40.6% (26-for-64) from the field, 35.5% (11-for-31) from 3 and 64.7% (11-for-17) from the free throw line. The Bulls had four players — Jeenathan Williams (20 points), David Skogman (16 points, 11 rebounds), Ronaldo Segu (14 points, six rebounds) and Maceo Jack (10 points, five rebounds) — finish in double-digits.

Ball State shot 35% (21-for-60) from the field, 78.6% (22-for-28) from the free throw line and 16% (4-for-25) from 3.

Cardinals have abysmal 3-point shooting game

Ball State had its worst 3-point shooting night of the year.

Shooting 37.1% on the season, Ball State was the second-best 3-point shooting team in the MAC and the 44th-best in the NCAA. The Cardinals shot 2-for-12 from 3 in the first half, missed their first four 3s to start the second half and finished 4-for-25 (16%). Their previous worst was their 22.6% (7-for-31) effort against Xavier.

Ball State faces off against Buffalo during their game at Worthen Arena Friday, Jan. 14, 2022. Ball State faces off against Buffalo during their game at Worthen Arena Friday, Jan. 14, 2022.

Ball State faces off against Buffalo during their game at Worthen Arena Friday, Jan. 14, 2022.

It wasn’t just the contested shots Ball State was missing either. Even on their open looks, the Cardinals couldn’t seem to buy a bucket from behind the arc. Buffalo, meanwhile, shot 36.8% (7-for-19) from 3 in the first half and finished shooting 35.5% (11-for-31) after hitting five of its first eight.

Sparks, Cochran emerging as Ball State’s most consistent weapons

For all the inconsistencies Ball State has had this season, two players — Payton Sparks and Tyler Cochran — are emerging as the most consistent offensive weapons for the Cardinals.

Sparks, who has shown gradual improvement this season, recorded his second straight double-double and the second of his career, scoring 18 points and recording 16 rebounds. Sparks also went 8-for-9 from the free throw line and drew a team-high seven fouls.

Ball State faces off against Buffalo during their game at Worthen Arena Friday, Jan. 14, 2022. Ball State faces off against Buffalo during their game at Worthen Arena Friday, Jan. 14, 2022.

Ball State faces off against Buffalo during their game at Worthen Arena Friday, Jan. 14, 2022.

Cochran, meanwhile, recorded a season-high 28 points to go along with nine rebounds and just one turnover. The sophomore guard shot 9-for-19 from the field and went 9-for-11 from the free throw line while drawing six fouls, as well.

Besides those two, Ball State saw sophomore Luke Bumbalough record 10 points while redshirt freshman Mickey Pearson Jr. — who was starting for redshirt junior Miryne Thomas, who was out with a hip injury — and Demarius Jacobs finished with two apiece.

Redshirt sophomore Kani Acree added three points while freshman Luke Bumbalough, who played 15:49, and redshirt junior Blake Huggins each finished with two points apiece.

Robby General covers Ball State and East Central Indiana high school athletics for The Star Press. Contact him via email at [email protected], on Twitter @rgeneraljr or phone at 765-283-8864.

This article originally appeared on Muncie Star Press: Ball State basketball loses 74-68 in MAC game versus Buffalo

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