While Emens Auditorium sits just down the street from Worthen Arena, the theatrics were on full display on the Cardinals home court as Ball State Men's Basketball (10-5, 1-1 MAC) went the distance with Eastern Michigan (7-8, 1-1 MAC).
In a back and forth affair, seeing neither team able to pull away from each other, two free throws in double overtime would secure a 84-82 win for the Eagles.
"It was a hell of a basketball game," head coach James Whitford said. "I thought two teams fought hard and Eastern really came ready to play. They've played this recidivous schedule and they keep on bouncing back. I thought our effort and toughness was great down the stretch and we put ourselves in a position to win, but we couldn't quite get over the line."
One facet of the game that rose and fell was three point shooting. The Eagles would take command in the first half going 5-6 outside the arc, with Elijah Minnie going a perfect 4-4. Second half and overtime saw junior forward Kyle Mallers go 3-7 and senior guard Austin Nehls go 3-4, with a game tying shot with 1.7 seconds left in overtime.
"Minnie's 25 hurt the game and it is what it is," Redshirt senior guard Tayler Persons said. "In the second half, we just shot the shots that we had. Kyle got hurt, but he had some big ones and so did Austin. He came in, hit a huge one and gave us a chance."
However, the biggest difference in the game proved to be at the line. The Eagles were able to down 18-24 at the line, including the game winner, while Ball State went 9-25 with Redshirt senior center Trey Moses going 4-15.
"I'm seventh or eighth at the free throw line and it was just one of those days for me," Moses said. "Mentally it got to be a little bit, but I'll bounce back."
Eastern Michigan started off the game hot knocking down a three to start the game. Around the halfway point, Moses would layup for his 1000 career point and would pull Ball State within one. A 9-0 run would put the Eagles up by eight, but Ball State would battle back to end the half down one off a three from sophomore forward Zach Gunn.
The second half saw the Cardinals continuously chasing the Eagles until a made free throw by Redshirt junior guard K.J. Walton gave the Cardinals the lead. Big plays from Mallers and Redshirt junior forward Tahjai Teague would hold down a Ball State lead till the final seconds. A three from Minnie would tie the game and send it to overtime.
In overtime, the Cardinals fell into some trouble with Mallers leaving the game due to an eye injury and Moses 1-4 from the line in overtime. A made free throw would give the Eagles a three point lead with 27seconds left, but a shot from Nehls from far out with 1.7 seconds left would send the game to a second overtime.
However, in the double overtime Ball State was once again haunted by free throw shooting going 5-9 at the line while the Eagles would go 5-6 in overtime and eventually knock down the winning shot.
"We just need to keep playing and believe in each other," Persons said. "This is a minor setback. We played hard and had the chance to win a game, but they played really good and shot really good from three. We lost some shooters in key moments and it is what it is. We just got to get back to it."
In the loss, the Eagles snap the Cardinals four game win streak and hand the team it's first conference loss of the season. Teague had a career high 28 points and 14 rebounds while Moses was one point shy of tying his career best with 16. The Eagles were lead by Minnie who has 25 on the night. In rebounding, James Thompson IV had a team high 19 pulldowns.
With the Mid-American Conference at a competitive peak, Whitford said that his team is ready for what's to come.
"It's a good win from them, but we'll lock in, learn from it and move on," Whitford said. "I told the guys it's going to be a hell of a league. You think about how good the league is right now and every game we have is going to be one like this."
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