The Cardinals (1-2) shot the ball well themselves and even stormed out of the gate to a 13-0 lead in the opening minutes before a complete lineup change gave Eastern Kentucky life. BSU finished the night at 47.5 percent from the floor and made 12 3-pointers.
Ball State hit more attempts from the floor than Eastern Kentucky, but the Colonels made shots at a higher rate (56.5 percent) and outscored the Cardinals 26-11 at the free throw line. EKU (2-1) made 11 of 22 from beyond the arc and 26 of 30 from the stripe.
“EKU had an unbelievable shooting day,” Ball State coach James Whitford said. “I thought they hit some tough shots. I didn’t feel like our 3-point field goal defense was that bad, especially in the first half. My message to the guys was you just have to sustain through those moments.”
Jonathan Hood was especially effective for Eastern Kentucky, coming off the bench to score 21 points and connecting of 5 of 7 from 3-point range. He was part of a bench effort that produced 53 points for the Colonels. Javontae Hawkins did half his work in the lane and the other at the foul line (where he was 10 for 10), going for 20 points.
Ball State was able to beat EKU’s unique pressing and trapping style of defense for a number of plays, but the Cardinals also turned the ball over 18 times. They were coming off a single-digit turnover night the last time out against Eastern Illinois.
“It’s hard to survive 18 turnovers on the road,” Whitford said. “I thought two things that were the difference for us were the turnovers and the fact that we weren’t able to sustain our effort on the defensive end. They were able to get to the rim more late in the game.”
Ball State led the majority of the game until midway through the second half when an eight-minute field goal drought coincided with a game-changing run. A Tyler three gave Ball State a 57-50 lead with 13:09 to play. But the Colonels went on 27-5 run before the Cardinals’ next field goal, a dunk from Tyler, stemmed the tide. By that time the EKU advantage had grown to 15.
Ball State rallied to cut the lead to 82-78 on a 3-pointer from Weber with 1:06 to play, but Hawkins answered for EKU with a 3-point play on the other end. The Colonels sealed the game down the stretch at the free throw line.
Eastern Kentucky’s shooting night was somewhat of a shock to the system for Ball State, which held its first two opponents of the season to 32 percent from the floor.
“In the end, our defense broke down, in particular our middle pick-and-roll coverage,” Whitford said. “When they started to stretch the lead a little bit, they were getting to the rim and laying it in, and that’s the part you can never allow.”
House’s double-double was the first of his career, while Kiapway is now 8 for 13 from 3-point range over the past two games. Weber, who sat out last season as a transfer and missed the first two this season, finished his night 6 for 12 from the floor and 4 for 8 from beyond the arc.
“Ryan is a really good player,” Whitford said. “You saw tonight what I see every day. He has a really bright future, and he’s going to have a great couple of years here with us.”
Ball State will return to action Saturday at 4:30 p.m., taking on Longwood on the second day of the tournament. The Cardinals will then play Sunday against South Carolina State, also at 4:30 p.m.
(Courtesy of BSU Athletics)