MUNCIE, Ind. -- Live by the three; die by the three is a popular basketball axiom that sometimes explains wins and losses. Ball State experienced both sides of that principle Saturday (mostly the living part) and made it work out.
The Cardinals hit a season-high 15 shots from the 3-point line, one shy of the school record. That helped them rally past a stubborn Western Michigan Broncos and into a share of first place in the Mid-American Conference West Division with a 75-71, overtime victory in Worthen Arena.
“That wasn’t really . . .
“Every time Franko (House) or one of our big guys got it inside, (Western Michigan) was conscious of where they were and what they were doing, and that kind of opened up the outside.
“We were hitting outside shots. That’s just the way it went in this game.”
The 15 baskets from the 3-point line broke Ball State’s previous 2015-16 season best of 13 on Jan. 6 against Toledo. The Cardinals’ 30 attempts from the arc were their second-highest total.
Weber’s three with 7:00 minutes to go and another one with 6:08 left in the second half pulled Ball State (15-8, 6-4 MAC West) into a tie with the Broncos (9-14, 3-7 MAC West).
A couple minutes before that, Bo Calhoun nailed a 24-foot 3-pointer to tie the score.
With 14 minutes left in the second half, the Cardinals had attempted 21 shots from the 3-point line and 12 inside the arc.
Cardinals coach James Whitford explained that was largely a product of the Broncos’ defensive plan. Western Michigan switched every screen, which left Ball State with a smaller, quicker player on offense against a bigger defender.
“I don’t mind it if they’re good shots,” Whitford said of the 30 attempts from deep, three or four of which he noted were forced. “We got 45 points on shots from the three … we have good shooters. I just want it to be a good shot.
“We’re not normally going to shoot that many threes, but teams aren’t normally going to play the way they did (on defense) either.”
Big threes kept going in most of the game. Franko House, who made only two threes in the first 22 games, hit his third of the season as Western Michigan left him alone on the right wing with 2:26 left in the second half. The shot gave the Cardinals a 56-55 lead.
The biggest three of the game might have come midway through the overtime period. House drove into the lane on a set play and stumbled. As he was scrapping to control the ball, he slapped it into the left corner to teammate Jeremie Tyler.
“I saw him out of the corner of my eye, so I just flipped it to him,” House said.
Tyler then just flipped it into the basket to boost the Cardinals, now 10-3 at home this year, into a 65-63 lead with 2:40 left in the game. They didn’t trail again.
Tyler finished with a team-high 19 points. He hit a career-best five 3-pointers in seven attempts as Western Michigan was slow to get coverage on him.
“I didn’t expect them to close out as short as they did,” Tyler said. “I’m a guy, if you give me that much space, I have to shoot it. … They closed out kind of too short, and I took advantage of it.”
So did Francis Kiapway and Weber. Kiapway hit 4-of-7 shots from the arc on the way to 14 points. Weber made 3-of-7 for 13 points.
House said his 3-pointer late in the second half was big.
“It gave me confidence to start shooting again,” he said. “It made me more aggressive in trying to drive and attack the rim.”
House turned into a point guard on many of the Cardinals’ 3-point baskets. He finished with a career-high nine assists, one more than Western Michigan’s team total.
He had only nine assists in the Cardinals’ first 10 games this year. He’s made 31 in the past nine games.
“It’s definitely a good feeling,” House said. “My teammates helped me out a lot by hitting shots. I have good shooters around me. It feels good. I’m happy about it, but it’s nothing I take away thinking, ‘I have to do this every game.’ ”
House also finished with eight points, four rebounds and two steals while applying pressure defense in the post. His all-around play didn’t escape the notice of Whitford.
“His versatility is incredibly valuable,” Whitford said. “I don’t think there’s a guy on the team who impacts the game as much as him, yet he’s not going to lead our team in any one statistical category.
“The only area he’ll lead our team is impacting winning the most because he does so many things well. Defense, offense, you name it.”
Ball State’s penchant for the 3-point shot kept it off the free-throw line for much of the game. The Cardinals shot only six free throws in the first 40 minutes.
But they were 11-of-14 at the line in the five-minute overtime, including their last eight points of the game in the final 2:07. Weber was 4-for-4 at the line in overtime.
Ball State claimed the victory after trailing by nine points with 13:23 left in the second half.
“I’d like not to get used to (comebacks), but you see with our team’s mentality that we’re never going to give up,” Weber said. “We’re never out of a game the way we shoot the ball, how hard we play, and how effective we can be on defense at times.”
Ball State had a fourth double-figure scorer in Calhoun. He had 12 points, along with eight rebounds, after being shut out in the first half.
Western Michigan guard Thomas Wilder, the leading scorer in MAC-only games with a 21.9 average, scored 23 points. He had only two in the first half. Drake LaMont (13) and Tucker Haymond (11) also reached double figures, while Anthony Avery Jr. led all rebounders with 12.
Ball State will play at home again at 7 p.m. Tuesday against Ohio. The Bobcats beat the Cardinals 79-73 on Jan. 9. Western Michigan hosts Miami Tuesday (7 p.m. ET)
(Courtesy of BSU Athletics)