Falcons use intensity and effort to defeat Cardinals

Ball State [7-8, 2-2] came into Saturday’s game averaging 78 points per game and holding a nine rebound advantage on their Mid-American Conference opponents.

The Falcons talked about how important rebounding was going to be, yet at the end of the first half they were winning the rebounding battle, 28-27, but were trailing by four.

In the second half it came down to more effort on the defensive end, forcing turnovers, winning 50/50 balls and rebounding. That all came together for the Falcons as they defeated the Cardinals 58-46, holding them 32 points below their MAC scoring average.

“We knew that we didn’t play with the intensity we needed to play with in the first half,” said sophomore Zack Denny, who recorded his first career double-double. “We knew that in the second half we had to play with intensity to get the momentum back.”

That difference in intensity and effort was obvious after the first defensive possession for the Falcons, it set the tone. At first glance it looked like a simple Ball State turnover, but for the Falcons it was a spark that led to a 6-0 run.

“I thought we set the tone in the first possession defensively,” Jans said. “We had three guys on the floor and to me they just had a little more edge to them. I was glad they responded to the four point deficit the way they did.”

During that run, the Cardinals, who turned the ball over just four times in the first half, turned the ball over three times in two minutes. They finished the half with 10 turnovers and 14 total.

“There was a change in intensity, energy and effort in their bodies,” Jans said. “I thought it was set in the first three or four possessions; they were good for us defensively.”

The game went back and forth for the next three minutes and the Falcons went on another run, the type of run that evaded them in Wednesday’s loss at Akron.

“We talked as a staff that we needed to get on one of those runs,” Jans said. “We needed to get a stop and a run out, a three or a dunk and get the crowd into it. I thought that’s what happened.”

Once again the Falcons used their MAC-leading defense to spark a 10-0 run, pushing the lead to 43-33 with 11:14 to play.

“I thought offensively was the result of good defense. Most teams are good in transition and we are no different,” Jans said. “It just feeds you, it provides energy. That made us more comfortable in the half court.”

The Falcons were able to survive a nine-minute stretch without a field goal in the first half, relying on their free throws and defense to keep them in the game.

“Coach always prides defense and rebounding,” Denny said. “He believes that if you play great defense and rebound the ball, no matter how you shoot you can still win.”

Denny led the Falcons, with 17 points, 10 rebounds and added two steals.

“He is an effort guy, he played 39 minutes and it’s a product of his elite shape that he has gotten himself into,” Jans said. “He is a ball getter and hopefully we can get some other guys to do that as well and join the party so to speak.”

The Falcons, now 11-4, will be back in action on Wednesday, as they host Eastern Michigan.

“The old cliché is ‘win your home games and try to steal as many or split your road games in the league and down the wire you will have a chance,’” Jans said.