The Ball State Cardinals came into the game 8-6 in the MAC, and in the thick of the race for a first round bye in the MAC tournament. The Eastern Michigan Eagles came in losers of 6 straight, and just trying to get some momentum before the MAC tournament.
The Eastern Michigan zone frustrated Ball State early, and Ray Lee played like a man possessed, scoring 11 of Eastern Michigan’s first 15 points. The Eagles jumped out to an early 15-11 lead at the second TV timeout, with 11:42 remaining.
After James Thompson IV made a free throw, Willie Mangum IV went on a 9-1 run, extending the lead to 13, and forcing a Ball State timeout. It didn’t do any good, as they turned the ball over, and Mangum hit two more threes, putting the Eagles up 31-12.
Eastern Michigan went cold, and Ball State made a little run. Then Ball State went cold, and the score was 31-19 with 3:29 to go till the break.
Ball State then used Franko House to attack the middle of the Eagles zone. After a dunk and a bunny, he was able to kick it out to Persons on the wing for a three. The late run allowed Ball State to close the Eagles lead to 35--31 at the half.
The Eagles only managed 4 points, all on free throws, in the last 8:50.
Early in the half, the Eagles were up 7-2 in turnover margin, before turning it over 4 times. They also had a large rebounding edge dissipate, only winning that battle 19-17. The Eagles were 10-28 from the floor, but were able to shoot a blistering 8 of 12 from beyond the arc.
Franko House scored 2 buckets early from close to tie the game up at 35. With 14 minutes left, Francis Kiapway hit a three from way down town, and around the corner, to give the Cardinals their first lead since 3-0, 41-40.
House and Trey Moses got into foul trouble, and Tahjai Teague was able to give the Cardinals some good minutes, including scoring a bucket and a pair of free throws to give the Cardinals a 3 point lead with 12 minutes to go.
Mangum IV scored his first bucket since his early rampage to tie it up at 45 all.
James Thompson IV was able to get close and tie the game up at 47 before Sean Sellers hit a deep three to put Ball State back up 3 with 9 minutes to go. Thompson IV worked his way inside for another 2 to make it a 1 point game at the 8:16 timeout.
After 4 offensive rebounds on one possession, Ryan Weber was able to knock a three down to put Ball State up 6. After Ray Lee answered with a three of his own, Weber again hit a three.
A Franko House free throw put Ball State up by 7 with 4:22 left in the game. The crowed started to sense victory, but Mangum IV continued his hot shooting by knocking down another three, keeping the Eagles within striking distance.
On the key possession of the game, Eastern Michigan missed a couple shots after offensive rebounds down 4 with 2 minutes to go. After a scramble for the lose ball, there was an intentional foul, and Ryan Weber hit both free throws. Sean Sellers hit one of two to put the Cardinals up 7.
Thompson IV continued to work his magic down low, getting an offensive rebound and layup with a minute and half left in the game.
Eastern Michigan’s press was easily broken, and after running some clock, Ryan Weber hit a three to put the Cardinals up 8. To no one’s surprise, Mangum IV hit a three to keep it slightly interesting.
Trey Moses, a 53% free throw shooter, calmly knocked down a pair with 48 seconds left. Sellers knocked down another couple to ice the game.
Final Score, Ball State Cardinals 79, Eastern Michigan Eagles 72
The Eagles were able to hit 12 out of 23 from beyond the arc, but it wasn’t enough. The Cardinals won the rebounding battle, 44-34.
Willie Mangum IV led the Eagles with 26 points on 8 of 13 shooting from three. He didn’t get a 2 pointer till the closing seconds. James Thompson was aggressive underneath, scoring 17 and grabbing 11 rebounds, 5 on the offensive end. Ray Lee added 22 points and 5 assist. Those three players accounted for 65 of the Eagles 72 points.
It was a team effort for the Cardinals, with Franko House scoring 17, grabbing 6 rebounds and dishing 5 assists. Taylor Persons added 16 points and 4 rebounds. Ryan Weber scored 15, and Sean Sellers added 11. Trey Moses was the only Ball State starter that didn’t score in double figures, but he did grab 11 rebounds.
The Eagles drop to 13-15 on the season, and 5-10 in the MAC. They hose Northern Illinois on Saturday.
The Cardinals moved to 18-10 overall, and 9-6 in the MAC. They head to Western Michigan the same day.