Calhoun went for 17 points and 12 rebounds, while Sean Sellers posted a double-double of his own and Francis Kiapway added some punch off the bench. The Cardinals (1-1) were eager to show the Worthen Arena crowd they made offseason strides despite a one-point road setback at Bradley in the opener.
“I’m watching us in practice every day, and I’m seeing us play a lot of good basketball, so it was good for us to be able to do it when it counted,” Ball State coach James Whitford said. “I really like where we’re headed. There is a lot of optimism in our locker room.”
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Calhoun piled up eight of his 12 boards on the offensive end, but he wasn’t the only one doing work on the glass. Sellers grabbed a career-high 10 rebounds to go along with his 13 points. Ball State out-rebounded the undersized Panthers 43-32 for the game.
It was a two-point game at halftime, but the Cardinals outscored Eastern Illinois 37-24 after the break. Kiapway scored nine of his 12 points in the second half. The sophomore guard made his first four shots from the floor, including a trio of 3-pointers. One of those treys turned into a four-point play to give Ball State its first double-digit lead of the night a little more than seven minutes after halftime.
Kiapway and Calhoun both came off the bench Monday night and helped the Ball State reserves outscore their counterparts from Eastern Illinois 36-8.
“We got great contributions off the bench from a lot of guys,” Whitford said. “I just was proud of our team. I thought it was a complete team win. We have more depth this year, and it doesn’t always mean a guy is playing terrible if he’s not playing as much. It just means we have more players and a deeper team.”
The Cardinals committed only nine turnovers in the game and posted 12 assists, including a game-high six assists from point guard Naiel Smith. The team also cleaned up its free throw shooting from the opener, connecting on 75 percent from the stripe after hitting 10 of 20 against Bradley.
“That’s not characteristic of who we are,” Whitford said of the foul shooting against Bradley. “Like every team, we’ll have good nights and bad nights. But I think we’ll have more good nights than bad nights when it’s all said and done.”
Franko House added 10 points to give Ball State four scorers in double figures. A.J. Riley (21 points) and Trae Anderson (20) combined to score 41 of Eastern Illinois’ 56 points.
Ball State will return to action this weekend at Eastern Kentucky with three games in the @EKUHoops Classic. The Cardinals will play Friday against the host Colonels, Saturday against Longwood and Sunday against South Carolina State.
(Courtesy of BSU Athletics)