Just over a week ago, the Cardinals had lost their third game in a row and scored just 42 points – the lowest level in a regular season game since February 2018. After the defeat, head coach James Whitford emphasized that the team had struggled since returning from Redshirt Sophomore Guard Jarron Coleman, who made his season debut against Northern Illinois on January 16.
Three days later, Ball State fell to Buffalo, but Coleman scored 11 points – his first double-digit period in the season – and added eight rebounds.
On Saturday against the leading Toledo Rockets of the Mid-American Conference, Coleman finished the team on 19 points and added nine rebounds, which helped Ball State get out of their four game loss. Despite the sophistication of the Redshirt security guard, Whitford knows he is still far from reaching his full potential.
“He’s not where he can be and he knows,” said Whitford. “He really has to have a good three weeks to get himself to where he can be and to get us to where we can go to the conference tournament.”
For Whitford, however, he still saw something special in Coleman’s Saturday afternoon performance. He praised his contributions on both sides of the ball, saying Saturday’s game was a good indicator of what Coleman was capable of – even if he wasn’t fully there yet. Whitford also stressed the importance of his practical advances, which he said are slowly showing the gameplay to come.
“It’s not easy when you feel like a good player and know that you are much better than you are showing and psychologically,” said Whitford. “I think when you’re grown up and you’re a coach you want to say, ‘Hey, this is part of it. ‘You get into it, keep grinding, but when you’re 19, 20, 21 years old, it’s frustrating. ”
(Left to right) Ball State Cardinals Redshirt Junior Forward Miryne Thomas, Kani Acree, Jarron Coleman and Ishmael El-Amin kneel during the National Anthem on February 6, 2021 at the John E. Worthen Arena. The Cardinals defeated the Toledo Rockets 81-67. Jacob Musselman, DN
In the middle of the first half between 21 and 8, the Cardinals’ offensive problems, similar to their performance against the Zips, became apparent. After a pass from Redshirt security guard / striker Kani Acree, Coleman scored a 3-pointer – his first of three that day. An offensive rebound and dunk followed a minute later. While the match officials then gave him a technical foul, this did not prevent him and his teammates from defending themselves and overcoming the former 16-point deficit.
For Coleman, the anchoring of the Cardinals comeback began on Saturday with improved communication with his teammates. He said it was the main factor that caused the missiles to come out of goal early, which has changed after his coach called a few time outs in the first half.
“I’m just telling people when to take responsibility, when to be in the gap, when to pick up the ball,” Coleman said. “At the beginning of the game we were very bad and our communication was terrible. That led to the run [Toledo] and we picked it up and we just found it. ”
During Ball State’s early downtime, Whitford stressed the importance of not only better communication, but better transitional defense – an area the Rockets exploited prior to the Cardinals’ run.
“They did a really good job holding each other accountable and correcting each other,” said Whitford. “I think that’s a credit to our leadership – that’s credit to Ish, that’s credit to Blake Huggins, that’s credit to Brachen Hazen. You could see the chemistry in them, it wasn’t like, “Hey, Coach yells at me and I hang my head and sulk.” These people were quick to point out what we weren’t doing right and they responded. ”
Coleman’s second half started with a layup, and he followed that up with a half pass to second guard Luke Bumbalough, who was sailing a 3-pointer. The Rockets showed no mercy and quickly came back, tying the game at 51 before the Cardinals made a 30-16 run and won the game.
Redshirt security guard Jarron Coleman shoots the ball on February 2, 2021 at the John E. Worthen Arena. Coleman scored 11 points against the Buffalo Bulls. Jaden Whiteman, DN
Coleman said he knew that despite their recent shortcomings, the Cardinals were able to play games like they did on Saturday. He said it all came down to the point and a desire to ultimately win.
“We knew we were not a bad team,” said Coleman. “We just had to make some adjustments and get our fight back – we weren’t playing as hard as we should have been. We had to be the hardest playing team and if we’re the hardest playing team we have a chance to win every game. ”
Whitford said he specifically noticed two areas where Coleman was gradually improving: his decision-making and his passing.
“He did a really good job on offense tonight, he shot, he’s big and physically, and yet he still needs to improve his pace and do things to be a better defender and give us a little more pace in the Transition, ”said Whitford. “But he’s come a long way in the last three weeks and we expect him to go further in the last few weeks [next] three.”
With just over a month to go to the MAC tournament in Cleveland, Coleman took Saturday’s victory with a grain of salt, saying that this was just the beginning of what the Cardinals can achieve on the track.
“[Toledo] was the # 1 team, ”said Coleman. “They were hot and they got into our cot and we did business … it’s nothing special to hit them, [and] We are happy with the win. ”
Ball State will face Central Michigan on February 9th at 7pm