The 4-4 Ball State Cardinals continued their brutal non-conference schedule by heading to South Bend and taking on the 9th ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
The game started slow, as both teams tried to feel each other out. Trey Moses didn’t get the start as he is still coming back from injury, but did get into the action and made an impression, especially on the defensive side of the floor. His play helped the Cardinals to shut down the Irish midway through the first half, as they slowly built a 23-15 lead.
The Irish used their defense to battle back as they got some easy points in transition, and eventually closed to 30-29 on a three by big John Mooney with a minute and change to go. On the other end, he hit the floor and made a steal and nice outlet pass giving Notre Dame the chance for the lead, but it was not to be as the shot was missed and so were the free throws.
The Cardinals were able to close out the first half with a couple of free throws from Sean Sellers and then a last second jumper by Kyle Mallers gave Ball State the lead at the half, 34-29.
Taylor Persons led all scorers at intermission with 10. He started the game a little cold, but really gained confidence as the play progressed, much like the rest of the Cardinals team. For most of the first half, the tough ND defense was jumping out high on every screen causing the Cardinals some issues, but some inside buckets by Trey Moses and company really helped to pull back the pressure.
A big story in the first half was that Francis Kiapway went down with a knee injury on a defensive play. The senior isn’t a stat sheet stuffer, but does everything well, and is a heart and soul type of player.
The Cardinals held the edge on the glass, 22-15.
Both teams played solid defense and neither team shot particularly well, as they were both just under 40% from the floor.
ND got the ball and immediately went after Kiapway’s replacement and got 3 the old fashioned way. After another inside basket, the score was tied.
The action was fast and furious after that. Tahjai Teague gave the Cardinals the lead back, before Rex Pflueger hit a three to give ND the lead. BSU answered and so did the Irish. The energy level was much higher than the start of the first half, that’s for sure.
ND used the momentum, energy, and home court advantage to push the lead to 44-40, and the Cardinals called timeout. I was impressed with how the Cardinals were able to withstand the run, as things could have been much uglier at this point in the game. The Irish hit 6 of 6 from the floor during this run.
Kyle Mallers was able to hit a three to pull the Cardinals within 1. After a ND turnover, Persons hit a runner from 5 to give the lead back to Ball State. Ishmael El-Amin got his first bucket of the game on an outlet pass from Persons off a ND miss, and it was ND’s turn to call timeout.
Bonzie Colson hit a running hook shot for his 18th point to give the Irish the lead back with 13:47 still left in the game.
At the 12 minute timeout, the score was tied at 50.
Ball State scored a quick 5 to take the lead. Colson scored his 20th to stop the bleeding and Phlueger got a quick steal to give the Irish a chance to pull within 1 at the line. Martinias Geben knocked both down, and then Colson hit his 22nd to give the Irish the lead. Kiapway entered the game, which seemed to settle the Cardinals, and Teague hit a jumper to give the Cardinals the lead back, 57-56. Coach James Whiford called a timeout with 9:33, to let us all catch our breath, I suppose.
Kyle Mallers hit a three after a Trey Moses rebound, giving Ball State the lead 60-56. Colson got the ball in the paint and put up a feeble shot rewarded by a foul call on Trey Moses. The basketball gods were listening, as he was only able to hit one of two. Probably fair, all things considered.
After the ball bounced around the ball ended up in the hands of Tayler Persons, and he was able to hit a floater to give Ball State the lead 62-57 at the 7:51 TV timeout. After ND hit one of two free throws, Persons hit a huge three as the shot clock was winding down. ND then missed a layup and then Persons answered with a friendly roll jumper from the free throw to give the Cardinals a 9 point lead. ND promptly called time out.
The Irish wisely put the ball in Colson’s hands and he was able to get to the line. He hit one of two.
Matt Ferrell hit a huge three with a little over 5 minutes to go to close the gap to 67-62 and ignited the crowd. Ferrell then hit a layup after a BSU turnover, and senior made it a three point game.
Both teams were giving it their all, as a team effort led to a Ball State put back after a Persons miss close put the Cardinals up 69-64. Ferrell then knocked down a couple of three throws, and it was a 3 point game with 4 minutes to go. Tahjai Teague fouled out trying to get an offensive rebound and ND again hit one of two to close to 2.
Ball State worked the ball inside to Moses and he calmly knocked down both free throws. On the other end he jumped out on Colson three and the Cardinals were able to get a bucket at the other end to put the lead up to 6. After an ND miss, Persons had a chance to go up 9 on a good look from three, but it wasn’t to be. Of course it wouldn’t be that easy for either.
After Ball State was able to go up 75-69, TJ Gibbs hit a huge three to keep ND in the game with 1:44 left in the game. Ball State got an open three that they missed and Colson scored on a way to easy layup to give him 26 on the night and cut the lead to 1 with a minute to go. Sellers drove and got the call, as the ball rolled around the rim and fell out. He calmly knocked down both, three point game.
After an offensive rebound, Ferrell knocked down a three to tie with 20 seconds left. Persons then took a questionable three with a defender draped all over him. Of course he knocked it down, this is Indiana basketball!
Ball State won, 80-77.
Persons finished with 24. Colson led ND with 26.