The Ball State Cardinals survived a scare from Buffalo at Alumni Arena this afternoon, but were able to take control for good in the second half for a convincing victory.
Ball State exploded early, taking a 10-4 lead after about four minutes, but David Kadiri’s block prevented the Cardinals from expanding their lead leading into a media timeout. Davonta Jordan forced a turnover to give the Bulls the ball back down four, but Tahjai Teague’s steal soon led to a Cardinals three. Ikenna Smart’s missed dunk seemed typical of Buffalo’s day, as they found themselves down 17-10 at the second media break after eight and a half minutes.
The Cardinals saw their lead extend to ten after drawing a foul and converting a free throw, and Franko House’s block set up a Teague three before House’s dunk gave BSU a 25-14 lead, prompting a Bulls timeout. House then drew a foul and converted both free throws. Smart then put the ball in seemingly against the best efforts of his team, who lost control of the the ball several times on the possession. Dontay Caruthers helped matters by showing off some fancy dribbling to put in a layup and cut the Cardinals’ lead to seven near the 7:30 mark.
CJ Massinburg continued Buffalo’s upward trend by hitting from three and trimming the Bulls’ deficit to four, and Blake Hamilton contributed another three-ball. A Perkins block and a foul on Massinburg brought the Bulls to the line for three shots. Massinburg, however, missed all three shots, emblematic of the Bulls’ first-half troubles. Blake Hamilton blocked a shot with the chance to tie the game, but turned the ball over driving to the hoop, and Kadiri was called for a foul. Ball State’s Trey Moses missed from the line before putting in a shot to restore the Cardinals’ four-point lead on the next possession. A flurry of Ball State buckets gave them a 43-34 lead at the half after Sean Sellers hit from downtown in the final seconds of the first period.
Buffalo continued looking up early in the second half, drawing a defensive foul and scoring off a Kadiri tip, before Kadiri drew another foul and Nikola Rakicevic scored on another tip-in. After three minutes, Buffalo still trailed by 8 when Willie Conner drew a foul after making a basket and then sunk the free throw. Kadiri went to the line after posting a layup for two, and Ball State’s lead shrunk to two again after the shot. Just before the 15-minute mark, Massinburg put the Bulls ahead for the first time all day, converting a three-ball and taking a 49-48 lead. Conner followed in kind, and all of a sudden it was the Bulls with the four-point lead, but the Cardinals reclaimed that lead with a Ryan Weber three.
Perkins was fouled while putting a layup in for two, but he couldn’t put the foul shot in, and Ryan Weber sunk two free throws to reach double digits. Weber was the first player of either team to do so, as the Bulls and the Cardinals continued their cat-and-mouse game near the midway mark of the second half.
A combination of foul trouble and carelessness kept the Bulls from taking advantage of the game’s closeness, and the Cardinals had a six-point lead at the 5:30 mark in the second half, and a Weber three restored that figure after some door-knocking from the Bulls. Tayler Persons made the lead double-digit again at 3:30, and a timeout was called after a 9-0 Ball State run.
The final minutes were unremarkable, as Ball State cruised to a 92-77 win.
The Cardinals improve to 11-6 overall and 2-2 in MAC play, while the Bulls fall to 7-10 on the season and 1-3 in conference play.
Ball State next plays Central Michigan Tuesday evening, while Buffalo takes on Kent State that same evening.