Jeremie Tyler, Ryan Weber and Tayler Persons led the way with 17 points each. Franko House logged his third double-double of the year with 13 points and 10 rebounds, while Francis Kiapway and Sean Sellers both scored 10.
With the win, Ball State (11-6) evened its Mid-American Conference record at 2-2. Buffalo (7-10) fell to 1-3 in MAC play.
"We were focused all . . .
Ball State used a 10-3 run to close out the first half and take a 43-34 lead into the locker room on a last-second 3-pointer from Sellers. Buffalo came out of gates quickly in the second half and grabbed a 49-48 advantage less than five minutes after the break.
Ball State, however, withstood the storm. The Cardinals re-took a slim lead, which they held for much of the second half. They then put the Bulls away in the final minutes.
With Ball State leading 73-70 nearing the 4-minute mark, Weber drained a 3-pointer that started an 11-0 run. When House capped it with a lay-in with 2:37 to play, the Cardinals' three-point lead had swelled to 84-70. From there, they polished it off at the free throw line.
Persons ran the Ball State offense with six assists and only one turnover on the afternoon. The Cardinals' nine turnovers as a team were their fewest this season.
"That's hard to do against a team that pressures as much as they do," Whitford said. "That's an incredible stat line (for Persons)."
Persons and House managed to play down the stretch despite through foul trouble. Both registered a fourth foul with 10 minutes remaining in the game but were able to avoid a fifth.
According to Whitford, the Cardinals reaped the rewards of hustle -- diving for loose balls and keeping plays alive.
One such play came midway through the second half after Buffalo closed to within a single point. Trey Moses went diving to the floor to save a possession and kicked the ball to Weber for a 2-point goal.
"Those are the difference makers in close games," Whitford said. "You need those, and we got every one of them tonight. I'm really proud of our guys."
Moses finished with a game-high 14 rebounds, including nine in the first half alone, though the Cardinals were outrebounded for just the third time this season by a physical Buffalo team.
Persons scored 13 of his 17 points in the second half, including six at the free throw line down the stretch as Buffalo tried to extend the game. Tyler scored 10 of his after the break.
Buffalo got a big game from senior forward David Kadiri, who made 11 of 13 shots from the field on the way to 23 points and 11 rebounds. Other Bulls reaching double figures were
sophomore Nick Perkins (12), Blake Hamilton (14), and Willie Conner (10).
Ball State will return home to host its first MAC West Division opponent of the season Tuesday. The Cardinals will tip against Central Michigan at 7 p.m. at Worthen Arena. Buffalo travels to Kent State Tuesday (7 p.m. ET)
(Courtesy of BSU Athletics)