It took a gritty effort, but BSU squad stuck with it and stuck together, overcoming an early 17-point deficit and 31 turnovers for a 78-73, double-overtime win at Tennessee State.
In so doing, the Cardinals (20-13) accomplished two things they had not done since 2002: reach 20 wins in a season and win a postseason game.
“Any win like this is incredible, especially when you think about it being postseason play, having to . . .
Jeremie Tyler led Ball State with 25 points (five 3-pointers), while Ryan Weber had 20 points and drilled six second-half treys. Freshman center Trey Moses logged his first career double-double with 13 points and a career-high 13 rebounds to go along with six assists.
The majority of the damage for those three – really, for the entire team – came in the second half. Ball State trailed 27-14 at the break, but it could have been much worse.
DOWN 20-3 EARLY
The Cardinals struggled to take care of the ball early and made just one of their first 17 attempts from the floor. They were down 20-3 before showing a few signs of life on offense late in the half. But their work on the glass and on the defensive end kept them in it.
“Things couldn’t have gone worse,” Whitford said. “We had a lot of turnovers. When we didn’t turn it over, we got great shots but they weren’t going in. But we defended, we rebounded, we hung in there with our transition. We gave ourselves a chance because we had grit in the first half when everything was going bad.”
DRAMATIC SHOOTING TURNAROUND
It was a completely different story after halftime. Ball State still struggled to take care of the ball against Tennessee State’s trapping defense, but the shots started to fall at a high rate. Here is how stark the contrast was between halves: 17.2 percent from the floor (16.7 from 3) in the first half; 61.1 percent from the floor (73.3 from 3) the rest of the way.
Ball State took its first lead on Moses’ third 3-pointer of the season with 5:57 to play, and it was back and forth the rest of the way. Moses had a look at the end of regulation that would have won the game, but it just glanced off the rim.
The Cardinals were in position to win again in the first overtime before Tennessee State’s Keron DeShields knocked down a contested 3-pointer with 5.7 seconds left to tie the game at 64. DeShields led the Tigers (20-11) with 24 points.
Ball State was finally able to grab a measure of control in the second overtime. The Cardinals scored five points on one possession with a Weber 3-pointer and two Sean Sellers free throws when he was fouled underneath the basket. They never trailed from there.
There were a few tense moments late in the second OT, but Ball State was able to ice the win at the free throw line.
BSU GOES HOUSE-LESS LATE
The Cardinals played the final eight-plus minutes without leading scorer Franko House, who fouled out early in the first overtime. Moses asserted himself in House’s absence, taking the ball to the basket and feeding opponents from the high post.
For Whitford, Tuesday’s performance was a reflection of the qualities his team has demonstrated throughout the season.
“The thing I love the most about our team … We don’t always play well, but it’s almost never for a lack of a great attitude, a lack of great effort, a lack of really trying hard to do the right thing,” he said. “Sometimes teams play styles that are hard. Even when you’re trying to do everything right, you’re not. But we really had the right attitude tonight, and that’s why we’ve had a successful season.”
Ball State will learn its opponent for the next round of the CIT after the tournament’s first-round games conclude Wednesday night.
(Courtesy BSU Athletics)