Threes and frees lead to MU loss at Ball State
By MIKE SMITH
MUNCIE, IN -- Miami Head Coach Travis Steele is fond of reminding, "Defense travels."
Conversely, as with any experienced coach, he knows offense may not travel, and Saturday's results supported that observation. The RedHawks made just 1-of-13 3-point tries while falling to Ball State 75-61 at Worthen Arena.
It was the eighth win in nine games for BSU, which bounced back from a road loss at Ohio Tuesday night. The Cardinals (12-5 overall) are now 3-1 in conference play, while Miami (7-10 overall) falls to 1-3.
Both teams finished with . . .
. . . 26 field goals, but the difference came in two areas -- the foul line and beyond the arc.
Miami entered Saturday as the MAC's top 3-point goal team (9.1 per game) and was fourth in 3-point goal percentage (36.6%). However, the RedHawks made just 1-of-13 (7.7%) from long distance against BSU. They also struggled to 8-of-15 (53.3%) at the free throw line, which has been a strength all season. Miami's 80.8 percent at the stripe through the first 16 games was tops among MAC teams.
As for BSU, the Cardinals did what they have done all season: They got to the free throw line. Ball State leads the MAC in free throw attempts by a wide margin and finished Saturday making more free throws than MU shot. The hosts eventually made 16-of-25 attempts.
Meanwhile, BSU's 7-of-20 (35%) performance from beyond the arc was pedestrian, but it was six more "makes" than Miami. That, added to an eight-point free throw advantage, accounted for the 14-point final margin on the scoreboard.
Jaylin Sellers and Demarius Jacobs shared scoring honors for BSU with 15 points apiece. Sparks also registered 14 rebounds, three assists and two blocks. Payton Sparks and Basheer Jihad contributed 12 each.
Miami, which again battled foul problems (three players finished with four fouls and missed court time) had three players in double figures. Mekhi Lairy was one of those three, limiting him to 29 minutes. However, he still led MU with 17 points. Anderson Mirambeaux nearly reached a double-double with 14 points and nine rebounds despite playing 29 minutes against a strong Cardinals cast along the front line.
Kamari Williams scored 10 points for the visiting RedHawks, while Ryan Mabry was held to six points after reaching double figures in four of his last five games. The 6-5 freshman tallied a career-high 15 points Tuesday when he hit 5-of-7 treys against Buffalo. He was 0-for-1 on triples at Ball State. Meanwhile, Morgan Safford, who suffered an ankle injury against UB, tallied five points and grabbed eight caroms in 32 minutes.
Miami never led and there were early signs the offense might sputter. The RedHawks hit just two field goals during the first seven minutes and trailed 19-5 following a Sellers layup at 12:58.
Ball State's advantage grew to 19 and the hosts led 45-26 after a Sellers dunk at 1:08. It was 47-30 in the Cardinals favor at intermission.
Miami, which outscored BSU 31-28 in the second half, managed to reduce its deficit to single digits (63-55) when Mirambeaux capped a six-point run with a short hook shot in the lane at 5:08. However, Ball State ran off seven straight points to end MU's challenge.
Editor-Publisher Mike Smith
Mike grew up in Mid-American Conference football and basketball territory and returned there after military service. He has been covering MAC football and men's basketball for much of the last several decades.