The Cardinals (18-10, 9-6 MAC) won their third straight game and remained unbeaten against West Division opponents this season. Eastern Michigan (13-15, 5-10 MAC) lost its seventh straight contest and is 1-9 over the last 10 outings.
“This was a really . . .
Franko House and Tayler Persons led the way with 16 points, while Ryan Weber had 15. Sean Sellers added 11 points to round out the double-figure scorers, and Trey Moses pulled down 11 rebounds as Ball State managed a 44-34 advantage on the glass.
As they have often done recently, the Cardinals stormed back from an early deficit. This time they trailed by 19 in the first half. Eastern Michigan shot the lights out from 3-point range early, making eight of their first nine from deep, to take a 31-12 lead at the 8:27 mark.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, struggled early to get going on the offensive end against the Eagles’ unique zone.
“I thought we became discombobulated in that stretch,” Whitford said. “We played emotionally, not smart. Once we hit the timeout where we were down 31-12, they didn’t get a field goal the rest of the half. I thought we really got back into the game by defending and rebounding, and their shooting leveled out, which is pretty normal in a game.”
Ball State picked things up on offense, as well, first by getting to the foul line and then by getting some shots from the floor to fall. The Cardinals closed the half on a 19-4 run, holding Eastern Michigan to just four free throws, to cut the lead to 35-31 at the half.
The Cardinals came out of the gates more quickly in the second half, outscoring the Eagles 10-5 with less than six minutes shaved off the clock. Francis Kiapway knocked down a 3-point basket at the 14:24 mark to give the Cardinals their first lead (41-40) since early in the contest.
It was back and forth after that until some outside shots from Weber helped to loosen things up. On one possession, Weber collected three offensive rebounds and then knocked down a trey from the top of the key to put the Cardinals on top 62-56.
Ray Lee hit a three on the other end for Eastern Michigan, but Weber answered right back with another one to push the lead to six again. The Cardinals held onto the lead the rest of the way and sealed the win by making 11 of 12 free throws in the final two minutes. Weber drained another 3-pointer during that stretch for good measure.
Ball State finished the game at 42.3 percent from the floor, including a 6-for-7 performance from House, while Eastern Michigan cooled to 36.9 percent.
With three games remaining in the MAC regular season, the Cardinals begin a two-game road swing when they travel to Western Michigan Saturday for a 2 p.m. tipoff.
Eastern Michigan hosts Northern Illinois Saturday (Noon, ET).
(Courtesy of BSU Athletics)