This year things had to be different.
After holding the lead for more the majority the game, Ball State was able to escape Saturday's game against Valparaiso with a 69-66 win at Worthen Arena.
The Cardinals, who lost this game in heartbreaking fashion last year, were able to beat Valpo by taking away the Crusaders' most potent weapon: it's dribble penetration. Ball State did a great job of forcing the Crusaders to beat them from the outside and take contested midrange jumpers instead of letting them drive to the basket.
That much was evident early in the game, as the Cardinals began an 11-0 run after Valpo scored the first two points and led three minutes into the second half. But the Crusaders came out of the break with more intent and quickly took a two-point lead before Ball State shook off the malaise and allowed its bigs to take over the game.
Much of the focus should go to the starting front court play of the Cardinals as Bo Calhoun, Franko House and Ryan Weber all helped lead their team to victory. Calhoun and House were in double digits with points, with 15 and 14, respectively, while Weber worked hard on the boards and did well on defense.
Much was made of the matchup between House and Alec Peters going into the game and neither disappointed. Although it was cut short when House fouled out with about six minutes left to play, it lived up to expectations as Peters put up a career-high 28 points.
Saturday was a special day for Calhoun, who tied his career high in threes made with 3, and led the team in scoring despite being limited by foul trouble. Jeremiah Davis was also a key factor to the victory, with his 10 points and six assists leading the Cardinals to victory.
Davis and Calhoun were especially important as Ball State began to pull away late in the second half and both were needed to hold off a Crusaders' comeback, with Calhoun being called upon more when House fouled out.
But free throws proved crucial down the stretch, as the Cardinals knocked down 16 of their 23 free throws and Davis got a few key blocks late on to secure the victory. It would also be Davis who dished his final assist to Trey Moses to put the game out of reach.
This win is one of biggest victories that Ball State has pulled off since its season opening victory over Xavier in 2003.
|B. Calhoun (15)
|A. Peters (28)
|F. House (8)
|D. Walker (8)
|J. Davis (6)
|Two tied (4)
|T. Moses (3)
|V. Fernandez (1)
|Four tied (1)
|Two tied (2)