Ball State (12-11, 3-7 MAC) won its third conference game of the season Tuesday at Northern Illinois (12-11, 5-5 MAC) and just its second in the last nine contests.
This was the Cardinals' fourth game decided by one possession. The previous three ended in a tally mark in the loss column. This time around, the chips fell in the Cardinals’ favor. Here’s what to take away from Tuesday’s matchup in DeKalb, Illinois.
Five guys buckets and drives
Five Cardinals combined for 72 points Tuesday. And that’s it. Three of those five scored 65 of the 72. Redshirt senior guard Tayler Persons dropped 29 points, senior center Trey Moses recorded 22 and redshirt junior forward Tahjai Teague added 14. The five others who touched the floor combined for seven.
Persons was a one-man show, as it seemed everything he threw up went in. Moses and Teague acted as Ball State’s twin towers inside. Moses finished one point shy of tying his career high while also pulling down 10 rebounds to record his second double-double of the season. Teague notched a double-double as well — his fourth of the year. He was two rebounds away from grabbing more boards than points.
If this trio can keep up this caliber of play with more than seven points of support from role players, Cardinal fans could be in for a treat.
All mighty Persons
As mentioned before, Persons was on another level. He matched his season-high of 29 points — three shy of his career-best.
What stood out for Persons was his shooting efficiency. He was a perfect 4-for-4 from the field in the first six and a half minutes, putting him in double figures early. Persons ended the night shooting 69 percent overall and 67 percent from 3-point range.
Persons seemed to pick up the slack from redshirt junior guard K.J. Walton. Walton led the Cardinals with 44 points in the team’s previous two games. He was limited to three Tuesday, but Persons provided enough scoring for the both of them.
What are you doing?
As Ball State inbounded the ball with the score tied and four seconds left, it looked like the Cardinals were headed to overtime for the second time in as many games. Persons was about to throw up a full-court shot until the whistle blew.
Northern Illinois’ Lacey James fouled Persons as he ran by. Huskies players put their hands behind their heads in disbelief. James must have thought his team was still trailing when it was actually a tie game.
The Huskies’ only chance was if Persons missed both free throws, but the likelihood of that looked bleak for the home team. Persons shoots 80.6 percent from the charity stripe. Sure enough, he swished home the first one. He intentionally missed the second, and Norther Illinois’ heave at the buzzer didn’t fall, giving Ball State the win in an improbable fashion.
At long last
Speaking of a Ball State win, Cardinals fans hadn’t seen one of those in 17 days. The victory snapped a losing streak of four in a row after the Cardinals’ last win against Central Michigan.
The win improved Ball State’s conference record to 3-7, which is in no way representative of its performance quality. Other than an 18-point loss to Ohio and a 24-point loss to Buffalo, the Cardinals haven’t lost a game in the Mid-American Conference by more than six points. Their MAC record could just as easily be 8-2 if the cards were dealt a tad differently in the final seconds.
Contact Zach Piatt with any comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @zachpiatt13.