Bo Calhoun scored 22 points and matched his career high with 14 rebounds to lead the Cardinals to a 75-63 victory over the defending Mid-American Conference regular season champions. The Chippewas were previously 27-2 at McGuirk Arena dating back to last season.
“It’s a really great win -- up there with any we’ve had this year in terms of quality,” Ball State coach James Whitford said. “Central Michigan . . .
. . . was the preseason favorite to win the MAC. They won it last year. They have a great team, a great coach and a class program. For us to come up here and get a win means a lot for our program.”
Ball State (16-9, 7-5 MAC) closed the game on a 17-5 run to win for the fourth time in its past five road games. In so doing, the Cardinals remained tied atop the MAC West Division by beating one of the teams they were tied with entering the day. Toledo kept pace with a win Saturday night against Miami.
Franko House had 15 points for the Cardinals, while Ryan Weber (14) and Jeremie Tyler (10) also scored in double figures. Rayshawn Simmons led Central Michigan (13-12, 6-6 MAC) with 22 points.
It was a back and forth game nearly the entire way with 11 ties and 18 lead changes. Ball State led by one at halftime thanks to a last-second three from Tyler, and neither team built an advantage larger than four points in the second half until the closing minutes.
Calhoun stepped to the free throw line after a timeout with 3:54 to play and the game tied at 58. He hit both shots and proceeded to score nine of the team’s next 12 points. Francis Kiapway mixed in a big 3-pointer during that stretch, and the Cardinals opened up a 70-60 lead.
“Bo was outstanding,” Whitford said. “He did a great job on the defensive end, too. I couldn’t be more proud of Bo. This is certainly the best performance he’s had since I’ve been here.”
A Josh Kozinski three was all Central Michigan could muster in the final two and a half minutes, and Ball State pulled away for a 12-point win.
The Chippewas entered the contest averaging nearly 82 points per game at home in MAC play. The Cardinals, who came in as the top scoring defense in the league, held them well below that number. Ball State also held a 39-33 advantage on the glass and outrebounded CMU by seven after the break.
“We wanted to do a better job rebounding (in the second half), but we were doing a lot of other things well,” Whitford said. “Our transition defense in the first half was exceptional. You have to do that if you want to compete against Central Michigan. You have no chance without it.
“We kept going inside. We wanted to make sure we got the ball inside consistently and played inside-out basketball.”
The Cardinals scored 30 points in the paint, including 22 in the second half. They made a concerted effort to get the ball in to House and Calhoun. That pair combined to shoot 12 for 15 from inside the arc for the game.
Ball State got the to the free throw line 15 times in the second half and made 13 of their chances. Central Michigan missed its only foul shot of the half.
Ball State at Miami (Tuesday, 7 p.m. ET)
Toledo at Central Michigan (Tuesday, 7 p.m. ET)
(Courtesy of NIU Athletics)