Comeback Bid Falls Short for Ball State Men’s Hoops against Ohio

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Trey Moses posts double-double; Cardinals rally from 25 points down

MUNCIE, Ind. — The Ball State men’s basketball team stormed back from a 25-point deficit Friday night against Ohio but came up on the short end, 79-77, at Worthen Arena.

The Cardinals even grabbed a one-point lead on a Ryan Weber 3-pointer with 4:21 to play. But with leading scorers Franko House and Tayler Persons having fouled out, Ball State couldn’t ride the momentum all the way to the finish line.

Trey Moses’ 15-footer at the buzzer was off the mark as the Cardinals suffered a second straight two-point loss against another one of the top teams in the Mid-American Conference.

Moses finished with his fifth double-double of the season, 17 points and 12 rebounds, to lead five Cardinals in double figures. Sean Sellers scored 14, while Francis Kiapway and Tayler Persons had 12, and Weber added 11.

Sellers, Kiapway and Weber combined to make 11 of 19 from beyond the arc.

Ball State (15-10, 6-6 MAC) trailed by as many as 25 points in the first half and found itself in a 49-30 hole at halftime. Ohio (15-8, 7-5 MAC) shot 62 percent in the opening half, knocked in 7 of 12 from the 3-point line and took advantage of 12 Ball State turnovers.

The Bobcats built a double-digit lead in the first eight minutes and continued to stretch it out. By the 4:20 mark of the opening half, it was a 42-17 game.

“I guess the story of the game was we didn’t come ready for whatever reason,” Ball State coach James Whitford said. “We didn’t play with great intensity on the defensive end, and they made every shot to start the game.

“Then I thought we really became unraveled. We were trying to get everything back on one pass because the lead had just gotten so big, so fast. It compounded like crazy on us, and we couldn’t stop the bleeding.”

It was a different Ball State team in the second half. The Cardinals shot 52 percent and made eight of their 11 3-pointers over the final 20 minutes. At the same time, they clamped down on Ohio, limiting the Bobcats to 36 percent and holding leading scorer Jaaron Simmons to 2-of-10 shooting.

Kiapway and Sellers each made three triples after the break, and the Cardinals got a spark off the bench from Kyle Mallers. The freshman forward scored six points and collected seven rebounds in 15 minutes of action after halftime. He also provided energy and created hustle plays to aid the comeback.

“It was great to see Kyle and Francis step up,” Whitford said. “I thought Kyle gave us a huge lift in the game.”

Ball State largely clawed back into the game during a 10-minute stretch when the Cardinals outscored Ohio 28-8 to cut the lead to 63-61 with 8:42 to play. It was an even game from there.

Weber’s 3-pointer pulled the Cardinals in front 73-72 with 4:21 to go, but Ohio scored the next four points and Persons fouled out.

The Bobcats stretched the lead to four, but Moses scored on a lay-in to make it a 79-77 game with 2:24 to play. That proved to be the final bucket for either team.

Weber had a 3-pointer from the corner go down and out with 57 seconds to go, but the Cardinals got a stop on the other end and had the final possession. Ohio deflected a pass out of bounds with 1.8 seconds to go, leaving Ball State one final chance. Weber found Moses on the inbounds pass, but his shot glanced off the rim as time expired.

“In the second half we made some shots, but the difference was we played much more within ourselves on offense,” Whitford said. “We just kind of locked in on playing the game the right way. And defensively we had great energy.”

Ball State now has six regular-season games remaining, including four on the road. The Cardinals will return to action Tuesday with an 8 p.m. CT (9ET) tip at Northern Illinois.

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