With an 87-82 victory over Northern Illinois (15-16, 7-11 MAC) Friday night in Worthen Arena to celebrate Senior Night, the Ball State men’s basketball team (20-11, 11-7 MAC) is the co-champion of the Mid-American Conference West Division.
"Tonight was a great game," head coach James Whitford said. "I thought both teams really played hard and competed. Senior Night is always a bit of a nervous night because there's a little extra jitters, but we worked our way through it and it was a good win for us."
Halfway through the first half, junior forward Sean Sellers hit a 3-pointer to put Ball State within two points of Northern Illinois' 16-14 lead.
Sellers decided that wasn’t enough.
Within 20 seconds of the first one, Sellers added another shot behind the arc to give the Cardinals a 17-16 lead.
Ball State statistic leaders
Points: Franko House (22)
Rebounds: Tahjai Teague (7)
Assists: Tayler Persons (8)
Ball State kept the threes coming, recording 21 points from 3-point shots in the first half, shooting 50 percent from behind the arc.
Going into the second half with a 36-32 lead, senior forward Franko House joined in on the fun, adding a 3-point shot of his own. Junior guard Francis Kiapway joined in from the 3-point line, extending the Cardinals' lead to double digits. Kiapway finished with 9 points, all from 3-point range, while House led the Cardinals with 22 points and five rebounds.
"I feel good," House said. "We've won, I think, five out of the six coming down the stretch and that's big. Any time you can get a win streak and your confidence high going into the tournament, I think that's what we did. We put ourselves in a good position."
Junior guard Jeremie Tyler returned to the court tonight, adding a 3-pointer with 15:13 left in the game. Tyler finished with 3 points.
With 10:31 left on the clock, Huskie sophomore forward Jaylen Key closed the gap with a layup to put Northern Illinois within six at 57-51. Key recorded six points in the second half, for a total of 12.
Northern Illinois freshman guard Eugene German lead the Huskies with 17 points
With just 5:10 left of play, Sellers added another 3-point shot to regain a double-digit lead of 66-56. Sellers finished with nine points, going 3-5 form behind the arc.
With 1:30 to go, Kiapway ran into trouble with a technical foul, provoking Northern Illinois' Marin Maric who was then ejected.
With a 3-point lead at 83-80 with 13.2 seconds left, the Cardinals scored four free throws to secure an 87-82 win.
On the night Ball State shot 43.3 percent from behind the arc, going 13-30. Seven of the nine players on the Cardinal's roster recorded 3-point shots tonight.
"I think we're playing well," Whitford said. "We're not necessarily where I want to be, but we are a lot better than we were. That in itself gives us a chance to make a run."
Finishing their last regular season game of the year, the Cardinals will now be competing in the MAC tournament where seeding will be determined as games are completed in the conference.