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Bethune-Cookman Wildcats vs. Ball State Cardinals final score: Cards narrowly survive, 51-48

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Ball State survives a scare from the Wildcats.

Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

The Ball State Cardinals (5-6) erased a double-digit, second half deficit to defeat the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats (3-11) 51-48 on Saturday.

The Cards were able scrape away a very poor first half and an equally questionable early second half as they worked the previously sizable Wildcat lead down to just two with seven minutes left. BSU then went on to force a shot clock violation and Francis Kiapway would hit a three as the Cards grabbed their first lead since being ahead 7-5 in the early moments.

That three ball ended a 0-for-15 start from behind the arc for the Cards, who shoot over 40 percent on average from three. Sean Sellers would use another three to tie the game at 45 after Bethune-Cookman used a 4-0 burst to retake the lead.

After trading free throws, Ball State would hold a 49-46 lead with under two minutes left, with that lead being Ball State's largest of the day. Bethune-Cookman's Quentin Brewer would then knock down a pair of free throws to bring the Cardinal lead back down to just one.

Ball State forward Franko House would miss a contested inside shot on the very next possession, setting up a chance for Bethune-Cookman to retake the lead they had for the better part of the game. With just ten seconds left the Wildcats would miss a jumper from the left side, but the ball went out of bounds off Jeremiah Davis, giving the MEAC team one more chance.

On the following possession, House would grab a very clutch steal and knock down two free throws with 3.8 seconds left to extend the Cards' lead to 51-48. The Wildcats were able to quickly get the ball up the court, but guard Brandon Stewart's three would be long from nearly straight away.

The Cards narrowly avoided embarrassment to an inferior Wildcats team, who were aiming for their first road victory after starting 0-7 away from Daytona Beach, Florida. The win also matches Ball State's win total from a year ago before MAC play even begins.

Bethune-Cookman owned the early minutes of the game, using a 11-0 run to go up 16-7 in the early minutes. The Wildcats would have that lead dwindled to 27-20 at halftime, before responding by continuing to frustrate the Cards and take a 35-25 early second half lead before Ball State worked themselves back into the game.

Ball State will begin MAC play by traveling to Ypsilanti to take on Eastern Michigan on Wednesday and Bethune-Cookman will go back to the Sunshine State to take on the Trinity Baptist Eagles of the National Christian College Athletic Association's Division II on Monday.