It was a game that both teams needed to have in order to stay afloat in the crowded MAC standings, and Miami did just enough at the end of the game to notch their third win of the season. The loss is Ball State's sixth in a row, and after a 2-0 start the hope to contend is probably no longer there.
Ball State entered Oxford and proceeded to jump out to a 14-4 lead early over the hosting RedHawks. This quick lead included four 3-pointers drained by the Cardinals within the first five minutes. Miami gained just one lead in the first half when junior guard Geovonie McKnight sank a shot from behind the arc to put the RedHawks up 18-17. Ball State would come back and extend their lead to eight, heading to the locker room winning 38-30.
The Cardinals could not be stopped from 3-point range, making 10 of 17 shots in the first half. Freshman Sean Sellers, who came into the game leading the team in scoring, was 4-5 from downtown. Sellers finished tied for the team lead with 15 points.
The Cardinals emerged from halftime and extended their lead to 43-30 with a layup from 5th-year senior forward Matt Kamieniecki and a 3-pointer from Sellers. However, the RedHawks would cut that deficit down and take the lead around the eight minute mark. The RedHawks were up five in part by a big dunk from junior Chris Bryant.
With under a minute remaining, senior Will Sullivan drained a 3-pointer from the corner to give Miami a 74-70 lead. Cardinal sophomore Zavier Turner rushed down the court to try and get his team back in the game, but 5-foot-10 guard Eric Washington, who led the RedHawks in scoring with 15, hustled down the court, blocked the jumper, and regained control of the ball.
At this point Ball State would need to foul to stop the clock, but Miami was already in double bonus at this point. The RedHawks would take full advantage of these free throws, just as they did the entire game, finishing 21-26 from the charity stripe.
"The free throw line was the place where we were able to take advantage and stretch it and overcome their 42 points from the 3-point line," said Miami head coach John Cooper following the victory.
Control of the game would flip between the two teams five times in the second half, and the 'Hawks would be the ones to keep the momentum long enough to hold on and beat Ball State 79-73.
"For a lot of young guys and guys that come from the JUCO level to pull out a game like this where it's close late and get a win, it's huge for confidence," said Sullivan.
Miami gets Northern Illinois at home on Wednesday while Ball State hosts Buffalo. Both games are scheduled to tip-off at 7 eastern.
|Points||Two tied (15)||E. Washington (15)|
|Rebounds||B. Calhoun (6)||C. Bryant (6)|
|Assists||Two tied (3)||W. Sullivan (4)|
|Blocks||M. Kamieniecki (1)||Two tied (1)|
|Steals||No Steals||Two tied (3)|