CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Ball State Cardinals defeated Western Michigan 66-63 Thursday afternoon in the second quarterfinal game of the 2017 Mid-American Conference Men’s Basketball tournament at Quicken Loans Arena.
Ball State (21-11) advances to the semifinals for the first time since 2011 and will face the top-seeded Akron Zips in the first game on Friday evening at 5:30 p.m. UA the regular season and Eastern Division champions defeated Eastern Michigan in the first quarterfinal, 79-62.
Junior Francis Kiapway led . . .
Western Michigan (16-16) saw its eight-game winning streak come to an end while suffering just its second loss in the last 11 games.
Junior Thomas Wilder led all scorers in the contest with 24 points, while freshman Brandon Johnson added 13 points and eight rebounds.
WMU held as much as an eight point lead in the early going. BSU then took the advantage as it outscored the Broncos 22-6 to take a nine-point lead, 37-28, on a three by Kiapway. Ball State led by five at intermission 38-33.
The second half was tightly contested, with the lead changing hands six times. WMU was holding a 55-54 lead at the 7:07 mark when Houst scored on a layup to put the Cards in front for good, 56-55.
Wilder took the ball between the circles and drove down the lane. Swamed by defenders, he failed to get off a shot. Ball State grabbed the ball and added a free throw to make the final margin three-points.
-- Although BSU came away with the victory, it lost sophomore guard Tayler Persons when he was injured while diving for a loose ball. Persons collided with a teammate at the 10:27 mark of the first half and was taken off the court.
-- Ball State will likely need its "A-game" when it meets No. 1 seed Akron Friday. The Cardinals, however, know that they can hang UA. The two teams battled to a dramatic 65-63 Zips win back on Feb. 7. That contest was decided when MAC Player of the Year Isaiah Johnson hit a jumper from the left wing with :00.2 seconds remaining.
This will be just the second time the two schools will play in the tournament. The other occasion was in 2004 when BSU prevailed 76-72 in Muncie.