In what was a somewhat unexpected result on Thursday afternoon, the five-seed Ohio Bobcats blew out four-seed Ball State in a 90-70 victory to advance to the semifinal round of the MAC Tournament in Cleveland, Ohio, thanks in part to an explosive first half on offense.
Jeff Boals’ squad posted a 54-point opening frame to start the game, shooting 59 percent from the field and keeping Ball State to just 32 points on defense to help cement a 22-point lead at the break.
AJ Brown was the star off the bench for Ohio, making his presence immediately known. He scored 17 during the first half and finished with a game-high 28, surpassing his previous season-high by 10 points. Brown made an impact on the other end of the floor as well, collecting seven defensive boards, three steals and a block.
Forward Dwight Wilson III (11 points, 10 rebounds) and guards Jaylin Hunter (13 points) and Elmore James (11 points) also scored in double figures for the Bobcats.
The Cardinals initially came out ahead early, holding a one-point lead just past the thirteen minute mark in the first half, but ultimately couldn’t match Ohio’s onslaught for the rest of the half. Allowing a 41-18 run in those final thirteen minutes would mean an early exit for a squad that had success in the MAC all year long.
Ball State’s points per game leaders, Jarron Coleman and Jaylin Sellers finished with just ten points each on poor shooting. Center Payton Sparks, who finished with 21 points and seven rebounds, was the only standout from the Cardinals in the game.
It was just Michael Lewis’ first year as head coach and this loss to Ohio is certainly not an indictment of his ability to build a program. Ball State will finish with a 20–12 record and should have confidence heading into next season.
Ohio will look to carry its recent momentum in the semifinal against a scorching hot Toledo squad on Friday in the MAC Tournament semifinal. That game will tip off at 5 p.m. Eastern time and is set to air on CBS Sports Network.