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Buzzer breakdown: Ball State defeats University of Illinois at Chicago for first road win

The Star Press (Muncie) logo The Star Press (Muncie) 11/14/2019 Jordan Guskey, Muncie Star Press

Ball State played its second-straight road game Wednesday as it faced University of Illinois at Chicago, and with the matchup the Cardinals earned their first road victory of the season 67-48.

BSU (2-1) had trouble hitting shots early against UIC if they didn’t come in the paint. The Cardinals had to rely on a superb defensive effort against the Flames (1-2) until that offensive effort picked up in the second half. And without redshirt senior forward Tahjai Teague and junior guard Ishmael El-Amin playing well, there’s a chance Ball State drops below .500 for the first time this season.

►RELATED: Ball State nearly mounts comeback, instead suffers first defeat in loss against Evansville

►RELATED: Ball State men's basketball shows depth, youth in season opener against Defiance

Here are three takeaways from the contest:

Cardinals again struggle to hit shots early

Ball State wasn’t in Evansville and it wasn’t facing a team that not many days later would upset Kentucky, the No. 1 ranked program in the nation, but again BSU had trouble finding its way offensively in the first half. It wasn’t to the level the Cardinals struggled against the Purple Aces. Ball State came out of the first 20 minutes with a nine-point lead, up 28-19. Still, though, a 1-of-13 mark on 3s and 12-of-33 clip from the field overall in a first half don't appear to combine to be a recipe for sustained success — especially when a number of the misfires were open looks.

Ball State shot 15-of-35 from the field in the second half and 6-of-14 then on 3s to up its totals in those categories by game’s end to 39.7 and 25.9 percent, respectively. It saw three players finish in double figures, one of those being redshirt senior guard K.J. Walton (12 points). The Cardinals were just unable to play a full 40 minutes of effective basketball on the offensive end for the second-straight game and that hampered their ability to pull away earlier than they did.

Ball State’s defense suffocates UIC

The Flames managed just 19 points in the first half on 6-of-31 shooting from the field and 3-of-13 shooting on 3s, and their struggles continued throughout the rest of the game. The Cardinals held their hosts to 31.5 percent shooting from the field and 21.1 percent shooting on 3s over the course of the contest. They finished with eight shot blocks, redshirt junior forward Brachen Hazen leading the way with three, and 15 points off 13 Flames turnovers.

Ball State played a complete defensive effort against a short-handed UIC team that only played seven in the game. It never let UIC lead even for a second, finishing with a 37:36 to 0:00 advantage there.

Tahjai Teague, Ishmael El-Amin keep Cardinals afloat when needed

When Ball State needed a bucket in the first half, UIC still hanging around, it went to either Teague or El-Amin. And sometimes the baskets Teague made came off stellar feeds from El-Amin, who would finish the game with six assists. It’s why the two combined for 21 of the team’s 28 first-half points. Teague and El-Amin were a combined 9-of-16 from the field in the first 20 minutes while their teammates were 3-of-17.

The second half saw the likes of freshman guard Luke Bumbalough (six points) and senior forward Kyle Mallers (eight points) step up to provide a bit of a respite. The latter 20 minutes were when Walton stepped up, too. If the Cardinals had needed them to, though, El-Amin and Teague likely could have shouldered more significant loads.

Teague led all scorers with 18 points and was a significant reason, especially in the first half, Ball State would finish the game with 36 points in the paint as a team. El-Amin finished with 14 points.

Jordan Guskey covers Ball State and East Central Indiana high schools at the Star Press. Contact him at 765-213-5813, jmguskey@muncie.gannett.com and on Twitter at @JordanGuskey.

This article originally appeared on Muncie Star Press: Buzzer breakdown: Ball State defeats University of Illinois at Chicago for first road win

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