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Ball State Cardinals vs. Ohio Bobcats: 'Cats capture first MAC win

The fifth time is the charm for the Ohio Bobcats, as they end their skid and pick up their first MAC win.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

No need to rub your eyes - you read that right. The Ohio Bobcats have won a MAC basketball game.

Okay, it isn't really that shocking of a result. The Bobcats are not the New York Knicks - they have talent on this roster, and a capable coach. The team had shown promise in its recent games and it was really only a matter of time before Saul Phillip's crew put an end to their rough start. Tonight, the Bobcats finally put all the pieces together and beat the Ball State Cardinals 82-73.

Ohio picked up the win by outdoing Ball State in just about every statistical category. The Bobcats had more rebounds and steals. They had more turnovers, but only by three. And in a nice break from recent performances, Ohio was lights out from the field: a beautiful 62 percent FG percentage, backed by a sparkling 72 percent shooting percentage from beyond the arch. With Ball State sporting a 43 percent mark from the field, the Cardinals didn't stand a chance.

Given those percentages, this game has the look of a blowout. But the Bobcats had trouble putting the Cardinals away. Ohio seemed destined for loss number five when Phillips' team found itself down 10-3 just four minutes into the game. Tonight, though, the Bobcats would not be deterred. The Bobcats first 12 points came courtesy of four 3-pointers, the first three of those coming from Javarez Willis. Stevie Taylor followed his 3-pointer with a steal and a layup, and suddenly the Bobcats had tied the game at 14. They would not trail again.

Still, the Cardinals would never fall too far behind. After Taylor's layup, the Bobcats scored another seven unanswered points. A minute and a half after the Bobcats took that 21-14 lead, it was all tied up at 22 all. Over the next eight minutes, the Bobcats again open up a lead thanks to the play of the team's two senior guards. By halftime, it was 40-31, Ohio.

With 17 and a half minutes left in the game, Willis hit another 3-pointer to put the Bobcats up 49-39. Less than three minutes later, Francis Kiapway hit a 3 of his own to cap an 8-0 Cardinals run that pulled Ball State within two. With just under nine minutes left, Willis hit another three to give the Bobcats a 63-51 lead. The Bobcats would bend but not break. After the Bobcats took that 63-51 lead, the Cardinals would never get closer than within eight.

As the frequency of mentions would suggest, Javarez Willis played a major role in guiding his team to a victory. He finished with 27 points, the most in a game by a Bobcat this season. A large chunk of that came from long range: Willis was 7-9 from 3-point range. His partner in the backcourt, Stevie Taylor, was next with 18 points and added four steals. Maurice Ndour, always a presence for the 'Cats, added 17 points.

The Cardinals were without Zavier Turner, perhaps their most consistent player. His replacement, Francis Kiapway, led Ball State with 19 points. Seth Sellers and Jeremiah Davis added 16 and 12, respectively. Franko House got into early foul trouble that limited his playing time, and he finished with just eight points. Bo Calhoun had 11 points but also led the team in turnovers with three.

Game Leaders

Points F. Kiapway (19) J. Willis (27)
Rebounds B. Calhoun (10) M. Ndour (8)
Assists J. Davis (7) S. Taylor (7)
Blocks Two tied (1) Two tied (1)
Steals J. Davis (3) S. Taylor (4)