The Toledo Rockets came into the contest needing to win in their last home game if they wanted to stay in contention for a MAC West crown. Tied with Western Michigan, the Ball State Cardinals needed to win if they wanted to control their own destiny.
Tayler Persons banked his first three pointer in, I guess giving him the feeling it was his night. He then knocked down 3 more, to give the Cardinals a 12-8 lead at the first TV timeout with 15:28 to play.
Trey Moses ended the streak, after Persons hit another three, opening up the scoring for the rest of the Cardinals. Persons wasn’t happy, I suppose, and he decided to bank in another three, his 6th roughly 7 minutes into the game. Along with 6 threes, Person added a two pointer for 20 points by the next break.
The Rockets were doing what they do, and had 15 points with 11:41 to go. With the way Persons was hitting, it’s a small miracle they weren’t down by more.
Jonathan Williams, after getting denied at the rim several times, decided to get in o the action, and banked in a three of his own, closing the gap to 24-21. Ball State was ferocious on defense in the paint to start this game. The few times the Rockets got a clean look inside, they missed.
At the 7:24 break, the Cardinals were up 29-23.
Francis Kiapway took a couple of questionable threes, but with the way everyone was hitting, why not? They propelled the Cardinals to a 39-31 lead at the 2:24 break.
The Rockets made a run to close the gap. Jaelan Stanford had a chance to tie with a three. It was a good, clean look, so of course he missed. Persons fittingly hit a jumper at the end of the half to put the Cardinals up 41-36.
Persons had 24 points going into the locker room, hitting 9 of 10 shots, and a perfect 6-6 from three. Tahjai Teague played a spirited first half for the Cardinals, grabbing 5 rebounds, and getting 4 blocks and 2 steals.
The Rockets had a balanced attack, with Williams scoring 11 and Steve Taylor Jr. adding 9 points and 8 rebounds.
The Cardinals opened up the second half with a couple of threes. Indicative how the evening was going to this point for Persons, he tried to throw an alley-oop that was batted back to him. He calmly took a dribble to the left and knocked down the jumper. That was followed by a Franko House three, and the Cardinals were up 52-38 with 16:41 to play.
Down 57-45, the Rockets switched to a zone, and got a steal. It helped on the defensive end, but they couldn’t convert, and were down 59-47 at the 11:10 mark.
Ryan Weber knocked a three after the timeout, and Trey Moses got yet another block for the Cardinals, their 6th on the game. The Rockets got the ball back, and Taylor was able to hit a free throw, then get a layup after the Rockets rebounded the miss.
Taylor Adway provided a spark off the bench for the Rockets, getting a block on one end, and then making a layup on the other, putting Toledo down by 10. Teague then went over his back, putting Toledo in the bonus. The 50% free throw shooter made both. Adway then ran down a rebound and the Rockets had a chance to make it a game.
Weber got the ball on the break, and then posterized Williams on a dunk. After making the ensuing free throw, the energy left the building. After a great pass by Taylor, Adway had a poster moment of his own, and had a chance to knock the Ball State lead down to 8 after the 7:38 break.
Taylor got a rebound on the miss, but then he missed himself, and Weber threw up a wild shot that was rewarded with a lucky bound and a foul.
Williams hit a three and after a couple Adway rebounds, he drove the lane and had the ball creep out. Jordan Lauf was there to push in. He was able to get the offensive rebound and put another in, putting the Rockets down by 6 with 5:20 to go.
After the timeout, the building was energized and the Rockets got the rebound after a Kiapway miss, and Tayler had another nifty pass and Adway had an even niftier fade away jumper to really electrify the building.
Franko House hit a three to put the Cardinals up 71-64, but the Rockets would not be silent.
After a couple of Taylor free throws, Persons hit a 5 foot runner in the lane for his 29th point in the game.
Down by 7 with 2 minutes to go, the Rockets then missed a couple of close buckets. Inexplicably to me they didn’t foul with a minute and a half to go and down 7.
Ball State bailed them out by fouling Williams and let him close the gap to 5 with less than a minute to go. They fouled Kiapway, and 80% foul shooter that hit one and Teague, who had been active all night, was able to grab the rebound, and seal the Rockets fate.
Ball State Cardinals 82, Toledo Rockets 74
The Cardinals used a great game from beyond the arc to take down the Rockets. They hit 14 of 31 shots from downtown.
The Rockets are going to be kicking themselves, because they missed a lot of shots close.
Tayler Persons led the Cardinals with 31 points. He also had 7 rebounds, and 5 assists. Franko House played great down the stretch, scoring 17 while adding 8 rebounds and 4 assists.
The Rockets were led by Jonathan Williams with 23 points, Steve Taylor Jr. had a great game with 17 points and 15 rebounds. He added 3 assists as well.
The Rockets moved to 15-15 overall, and 8-9 in the MAC. They travel to Ypsilanti for their final regular season game this season to take on the Eastern Michigan Eagles.
The Cardinals moved to 19-11 overall, and 10-7 in the MAC. They host the Northern Illinois Huskies in their finale.