Bill Clinton was President of the United States the last time Ball State Men’s Basketball (13-9, 6-3 MAC) traveled to Kent State (16-6, 6-4 MAC) and won. The long-awaited win finally happened, as the Cardinals defeated the Golden Flashes 62-54.
The Cardinals were led by senior forward Kyle Mallers with 16 points followed by redshirt senior forward Tahjai Teague with 12 points, 17 rebounds and six assists. Redshirt freshman guard Jarron Coleman also had 11 points, five rebounds and five assists.
Mallers has had two consecutive games in double figures after fouling out with no points against Bowling Green. In this matchup, he took advantage of the defense.
“He did a great job early,” head coach James Whitford said. “Danny Pippen was a hard matchup for him defending those guys inside, but it was hard for them to defend Kyle on the perimeter. They both had a hard time defending each other.”
Redshirt sophomore forward Miryne Thomas came in and propelled Ball State in the first half with seven points and two threes. After being down 17-5 in the first half, he hit a couple of threes and made some defensive stops, which eventually cut the Cardinals’ deficit to just four.
“He can shoot,” Whitford said. “We only know that because he doesn’t play very much. He is doing a good job, and it has been a hard year for him, so I am super proud of him. That is what we talk about in the locker room. You never know when your name is going to be called. Needless to say, we were hurting at that point in the game.”
Whitford praised Thomas for being able to come in and step up when the team needed it. He had only played five minutes against Mid-American Conference opponents prior to this game.
“I think it is hard,” Whitford said. “The other part is that it is hard for these guys when you don’t play and you’re working every day. You have to go in, lift weights in the morning, you’re practicing, work on skill days. It is like eating vegetables with no dessert.”
The Cardinals regained their momentum after shooting 13 percent from three in the first eight minutes to shooting 37 percent from deep on the game. They were led in that department by Mallers, who went 3-for-6, and Coleman also hit a pair of threes.
Whitford had high praise for Teague for his composure late in the game and keeping Ball State afloat in those final minutes.
“He was really making the right play all night,” Whitford said. “When he had two on him, he kicked it out. I thought Tahjai remained really composed, made great decisions and obviously, 17 rebounds speak for itself.”
For the Cardinals, Whitford said, it was about not playing scared and continuing with the same aggression they had to get them the lead in the first place.
“I think you can have a moment when you have a lead late where you play not to lose,” Whitford said. “We talked about what playing to win means to us. Don’t play scared. If you have an open shot, shoot. We have to continue to do the things that got us the lead. Don’t get tentative.”
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