The Cardinals (8-4) pushed their winning streak to four games as they wrapped up the home portion of their non-conference schedule.
Ball State led . . .
"I thought our team played the game the right way," Ball State coach James Whitford said. "It was similar to the Longwood game in that we really struggled to make shots and free throws in the first half, but we defended for 40 minutes. I thought we had two really good defensive games in a row."
Ball State broke the game wide open with a 25-7 run over a 7-minute stretch in the second half. Jeremie Tyler scored the last six points of the Cardinals' run, highlighted by fastbreak dunk off a feed from Franko House and a free throw for a three-point play.
That pushed Ball State's 11-point lead a commanding 62-34 advantage.
Tyler's dunk was one of four in the second half for the Cardinals and five for the game. Tahjai Teague had two of them in a 30-second span off passes from DouDou Gueye and Tayler Persons. BSU finished with a 34-18 scoring advantage in the paint.
On the defensive end, Ball State held Alabama State (1-10) to 30.5 percent shooting for the game. The Hornets made just 4 of 24 attempts from 3-point range.
Whitford cited a variety of reasons for his team's defensive improvement over the two games this week.
"A lot of it is our technique is better, our effort level is better, our focus is better, our communication is better," Whitford said. "We've kind of thrown everything else out and said we're not going to win unless we get this part right. For the last two weeks, we haven't worked on much else."
Whitford also credited the improvement to Kyle Mallers' move to the power forward spot, facilitated by Tyler's return. It has allowed Mallers to defend his more natural position and given the Cardinals another quick player in Tyler to defend the perimeter.
Mallers also saw the benefits on the offensive end, where he was freed up for a trio of 3-pointers as he matched his season-high with nine points.
Persons (12 points) gave the Cardinals a second double-figure scorer on another balanced night, while Teague joined Mallers with nine points and also grabbed nine boards.
Ball State will close out the non-conference portion of its schedule Dec. 29 with a 7 p.m. tipoff at North Florida on ESPN3. The Cardinals will then begin Mid-American Conference play in January.
"I feel like we took a step in the right direction in the last couple weeks, in particular defensively," Whitford said. "There's no question in my mind we can be a good team, but we haven't played our best ball yet."
(Courtesy of BSU Athletics)