Do you want mentally and physically draining basketball? The MAC will give you physically and mentally draining basketball. That's definitely what was witnessed last night at University Arena, as the Western Michigan Broncos beat the Ball State Cardinals 95-93 in double OT.
The first half was actually pretty standard. Both teams made small offensive streaks, but the Cardinals polished off the half with a 9-3 run capped off by a Zavier Turner buzzer beater that resulted in a 39-32 Ball State lead.
By the 18:31 mark in the second half, Ball State had expanded that lead to 46-34. The Bronco offense did not give up that easily though, and with 13:15 left in the second, the Western tied the score at 51 with an Austin Richie layup.
The Broncos held the lead for the rest of the half, until a crazy series of events with under 10 seconds left. Two Tucker Haymond free throws put the Broncos up 76-71 with 21 seconds left. With five seconds left, Ball State's Tuner hits a three-pointer to make it a 76-74 game. Obviously not enough time for the Cardinals to score again, right? Well, you'd be wrong in thinking that.
Western's Mario Matasovic was called for a loose-ball shove which gave Ball State a chance at the line to tie it up. BSU's Sean Sellers did just that, and to overtime we went.
Ball State jumped out to an 82-78 lead just over one minute into the overtime period, and thanks to a Sellers three-pointer, were leading 87-82 with 2:51 to go. But two David Brown free throws tied the game again with 23 seconds left, and we went to a second overtime tied at 89.
At this point, it was obvious fatigue was setting in. Ball State had two air balls, and the teams combined for only 10 points during the five minute period. With 35 seconds left, we were still tied at 93 and the Broncos took a time-out.
The Broncos then let the clock run, and Austin Richie threw up a three-pointer with about one second left. The shot hit rim, but was tipped in by Connar Tava with 0.1 seconds left. What was truly bizarre was that no one in the arena, even the Broncos, thought there was enough time for the Tava to put the shot back. The refs were ready to head to a third overtime, and Ball State neglected to adequately defend Tava on the play. After a video replay, the refs called the shot good and a stunned University Arena cheered. I know, right?
Zavier Tuner was the leading scorer for the Cardinals, putting up 21 points including hitting five three-pointers that were pivotal in keeping Ball State alive and forcing overtime. I say "keeping Ball State alive" because that was a real issue with Western's David Brown having a career game.
Brown was a force to be reckoned with last night. He had a career high 35 points along with a career best seven three-pointers, five of which were made in the second half. That second half really was an objective thing of beauty, the Cardinals and Broncos going shot for shot like two heavy-weights.
So at the end of this one, we've learned two things: 1) Western does have the firepower to defend the MAC title, even though this conference is bonkers. 2) Ball State is absolutely legit this year, starting the year 2-0 in MAC play then losing this incredibly hard-fought battle.
These two teams both play again on Saturday, Ball State heading to Bowling Green for a 4:00 ET tip-off and the Broncos going to Toledo for a 7:00 ET contest.
|Points||D. Brown (35)||Z. Turner (21)|
|Rebounds||D. LaMont (8)||M. Kamieniecki (13)|
|Assists||C. Tava (8)||J. Davis & F. House (5)|
|Blocks||D. LaMont (3)||M. Kamieniecki (2)|
|Steals||A. Richie (2)||Z. Turner (2)|