Thursday, February 10, 2011

Falcons Triumph Over Ball State

In a night in the MAC where all the East teams played at home and they all won, this was a game that BG needed, and they picked it up, beating a very solid Ball State team (that is now 1-4 against the East) at Anderson Arena in a game that finished in nail-biting fashion.  Right now there are four teams with 2 or 3 losses (all in the East) and they are battling for 3 byes.  Akron and OU have 5 losses.  You need every win at this point.  (Miami is not healthy, and DJ Cooper is injured for OU, though they won last night without him).

Anyway, this game started out a lot like the WMU game.  BG wasn't guarding, and Ball State nailed their first 6 shots on their way to a 15-6 lead.  This time was different however.  BG stiffened up the defense, and BSU shot 18% (ht. The Blade) for the rest of the half and BG was able to head into the locker room leading by 6.

Coach Taylor noted a couple things after the game.  First, Jarrod Jones picked up his second foul with 9 minutes left in the first half, and that limited his production, and then Ball State fell in love with the jumper, which is not their personality.

Coach Orr did something that he has done before, which is to essentially bench the starting 5 and bring 5 new guys on the court.  Also, BG ratcheted up the pressure, and I think those two things got Ball State out of their offensive rhythm and kept the game from turning into a repeat of WMU.

The second half was a game of chase.  BG would expand the lead out to 8, Ball State would close it up, BG would build it up again, and Ball State would close it again.

Things got serious when Ball State had it at 1 with 2:36 left.  There, A'uston Calhoun took charge of the game, nailing a jumper in the paint, getting a steal, and then nailing a sweet 15 footer from the right wing that barely moved the net.  Just inside a minute, Jordan Crawford drilled a 3 and BG was up 8 with :53 left.

Well, things were not as pretty from there on in.

Ball State came down and missed a 3, and Thomas rebounded.  They fouled Crawford, who missed the front end of the one and one, and Ball State got a layup to cut it to 6 with :26 left.  They fouled Dee Brown, who split a pair (+7), and then drilled a 3 with :18 left (+4).  Coming off a timeout, BG was still confused by the Ball State pressure and Luke Kraus dribbled onto the sideline trying to escape a trap, and Ball State had an opening.

They missed another 3, but BG failed to control the rebound, and Calhoun fouled Jones shooting with 5 seconds left.  He hit the first (+3) and then missed the second.  BG again failed to control the rebound, and Davis ended up with the ball.  Inexplicably, rather than dribbling out and trying the 3 they needed, Davis launched a two pointer that he missed.  The ball was then volleyed around for what seemed like an eternity and all you could think was that they were going to end up with an "and-one" somewhere out of that, but they just got the tip in and lost the game.

So a win, and an important win, but in nail-biting fashion as our team closes out games.

Statistically speaking, it was a pretty defensively oriented game.  Both teams finished under 1 point per possession, with BG shooting 43% and Ball State 41%.  Both teams ended up dreadful from beyond the arc (below 30%) and both teams made 5 threes.  BG was outrebounded again (though not as badly as with WMU), a trend which needs to be addressed as we move back into East play.  Ball State was very effective at the line, and BG was able to turn the game around with turnovers.  Ball State made 18 turnovers and BG had 13 steals (19.4% of possessions) and that was the difference in a very close game.

Individually, Jarrod Jones had a double-double, (15/14), but I thought that for a long stretch of the game, he was not a factor.  Perry also had a double double for Ball State.

A'uston Calhoun continues to string together quality games.  He started and went to the bench after BG came out slow, but he came back in with a vengeance.  He had 15 points and 7 rebounds in 29 minutes and shot over 50% from the field.  I thought Oglesby and McElroy contributed strong minutes, although they didn't get huge numbers.  Scott Thomas was held out of double figures and controlled on the boards, but did get 6 assists to lead the team.

I think that we are not getting everything that we could from our guards right now.  Crawford scored 10 but had 4 turnovers and no assists, and Dee Brown scored 9 in 21 minutes but was 2-7 shooting.  Jakubowski struggled to shoot though he did get 3 assists, and Kraus had foul steals over poor shooting.  We did play strong perimeter defense, for which these guys deserve credit, but it seemed like we had trouble feeding the post and that we didn't get highly productive guard play.  They have shown they are capable, so I'm looking forward to seeing them improve as we go down the home stretch.

BG is 12-12 now, and if you had told me back in the middle of December that this team even had a chance at sniffing a .500 season, it just would not have seemed possible.  The Falcons are in the race for the regular season title and for a MAC bye, and it continues to be a very enjoyable season to watch.

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