The Notre Dame Fighting Irish men’s basketball team was at home on Tuesday night against Ball State, and once again the Irish came out of the opening tip looking sluggish. The entire first half did not go as planned for Mike Brey‘s squad, as turnovers piled up and the Irish missed shot after shot.
The Irish weren’t in a rhythm in the first half, which has been the case for much of this young season. They continue to take poor shots, digging themselves into holes against good teams that ultimately become too large of a deficit to overcome in the latter portion of the game.
After Notre Dame took an early lead it was Ball State that went on the offensive, getting out to an eight point lead with just over six minutes left in the first half. If it hadn’t been for a 7-0 run late in the half by Notre Dame, the Irish could have been down double digits heading into the locker room at half time.
The Irish were out rebounded by Ball State 19-14, which is incredibly troublesome for a team most consider a top-10 team in the country. Notre Dame looked nothing like a top-10 team in the first half, shooting just 37percent from the field, and only 20 percent from behind the three-point arc.
The poor Notre Dame shooting put the Irish in a five-point hole at half time against Ball State. The lone bright spot for the Irish was the ability to keep the game from getting away from them. Bonzie Colson tallied nine points in the first half on 3 of 8 shooting, while Ball State guard Tayler Persons led the way with 10 points on 4 of 7 shooting in the first half.
The Irish would come out of the locker room with a little more enthusiasm in the second half, using a quick 15-6 run to take the lead 44-40 at the 16:47 mark of the second half. During the run, the Irish went 6-6 from the floor, choosing to use their ability to get to the rim, instead of settling for jump shots.
If the Irish could start the game like they start the second half, a lot of the Irish problems wouldn’t seem so amplified. Against Wichita State, Michigan State and tonight against Ball State, Notre Dame spent most of the contest playing catch up. Sluggish starts mixed with ill-advised turnovers have the Irish exhausting far too much energy early on, and like we saw in the Michigan State game, it ends up being too much to overcome.
Following the 15-6 run, Ball State would go on a 7-0 run of their own to retake the lead at 47-44. Really give credit the team from Muncie, Indiana in this game, every time it looked like the Irish might have a run to finally pull away, they would battle back. They took high percentage shots, and really took away the inside-out game of the Irish. With good defense and timely shooting, Ball State took a 55-50 lead at the 10 minute mark.
The Irish just couldn’t get anything going offensively late in the second half, and if they went on a run, Ball State would match them. The Irish at that point were in serious trouble, down nine points with 6:37 left in the contest.
Notre Dame would trail nearly the entirety of the final minutes of the game before Matt Farrell tied the game with a step-back three pointer with just 14 seconds to play. Matching the theme of the evening, Ball State and Tyler Persons had an answer for Farrell and the Irish. Persons would take the ball around a screen on the ensuing possession and hit a step-back three-pointer with 1.7 seconds left in the game as the Cardinals from Ball State pulled off the improbable upset 80-77 over the ninth-ranked Fighting Irish. Persons would finish the night with 24 points in the Cardinals’ victory.
For the Irish, this team was searching for answers after a nasty loss to Michigan State and an uninspiring win over St. Francis this past weekend. A loss to a 4-4 Mac West team does nothing to answer them. Bonzie Colson did what Bonzie does, finishing with 26 points, Matt Farrell added 14, most of which came in the last six minutes.
There’s a lot of season left to play, but this loss will sting the Irish all season long. No way should the number nine team in the country, lose at home to a team that’s never beaten you. The Irish get Delaware on Saturday, the place where head coach Mike Brey got his first gig. Tough night, and not exactly the stretch that the Irish were looking for after riding high in Maui