BLOOMINGTON — What do you tell your team when it trails by 31 points at halftime? And then 40 points with 10 minutes left in the game? And then when the final buzzer sounds and you have just coached the worst loss in your tenure as head coach?
For Ball State head coach Billy Taylor, the message was simple: This is one game against an outstanding team, and there is a long road ahead.
“Just stay positive. We’ve got a long season ahead of us,” said guard Jauwan Scaife about Taylor’s message. “Most important thing is keeping the team together … and let’s move on and learn from this and be ready for the next game.”
This message is the reality after the Cardinals came into Assembly Hall dreaming and hoping for an upset over No. 1 Indiana, but losing 101-53. The loss wasn’t just Taylor’s worst as head coach for Ball State, but also the first time one of his team’s has given up triple digits in points.
Maybe even more troubling for the Cardinals is they held their own against Indiana early on. At the 8:23 mark in the first half, Scaife hit a 3-pointer and the Cardinals only trailed 21-13.
The rest of the first half didn’t go smoothly. The Hoosiers outscored Ball State 29-6 the rest of the half and held the Cardinals without a basket for the final 5:44.
“The game had a good tempo to it (early on), we were playing pretty well, doing some good things,” Taylor said. “Then we turned the ball over, missed some shots and didn’t run back in transition. Most of the points they got were in the open floor.”
If the first 12 minutes were the bright outlook overall for Ball State in the game, then it’s positive player was Majok Majok. The forward held his own against preseason All-American Cody Zeller and Christian Watford as he scored 18 points to lead the Cardinals along with five rebounds.
Consistently throughout the game, Majok was able to spin and find his way around the inside to score or create a foul. He went to the line for 12 free throws, converting eight of them.
“They (Zeller and Watford) are good players, they are physical, so I just tried my best to go at them,” Majok said. “Definitely felt like I was able to play with them and just tried my best to keep my team in the game as best as I can.”
For the minor positives, Ball State was still beaten in every major statistic except free throw attempts. It shows an offense still growing and meshing with its eight new players and room for improvement. For the players, maybe the most important part of the message is staying positive and believing in the system despite the result.
“We had some opportunities out there to keep the game near in the first half if we had stuck to the game plan for the duration of the game,” Scaife said. “Maybe the outcome wouldn’t have been a win, maybe it would have, we don’t know, but at least we would have walked out with our heads held even higher, to a certain extent.”