Junior guard Demarius Jacobs goes up to the rim with the defender, makes contact in mid-air and gets the bucket plus the foul to give the Cardinals’ a 10-2 lead.
A few plays later, freshman guard Jaylin Sellers steals the ball, runs down the court and slams it. A play later, junior guard Luke Bumbalough throws an alley-oop and Jacobs slams it with one hand.
Three plays in the first five minutes, the fans were out of their seats and the Cardinals’ were smiling and celebrating, as the score was 17-2.
Redshirt junior forward Miryne Thomas said the confidence is high, as Ball State Men’s Basketball’s (10-10, 5-4 MAC) went on to win, 83-72 over Western Michigan (4-16, 0-9 MAC) and the Cardinals’ first three-game winning streak of the season.
“I will say that confidence is really high,” Thomas said. “We've used the term ‘ubuntu,’ and we learned it from the Celtics when they went on their championship run, and it just means that, ‘I am because we are,’ and that's what we believe in. That's really what's been carrying us having our togetherness on the court.
The game’s energy ended how it started with sophomore guard Tyler Cochran making two buckets plus the foul, bringing the fans to their feet and screaming, “And-1,” as his teammates came over to celebrate with him in the closing minutes.
The Cardinals were successful sharing the scoring load as five players scored in double-figures. Thomas led the Cardinals with 18 points and four rebounds followed by Tyler Cochran’s 14 points and Luke Bumbalough’s 13 points and three 3-pointers.
I thought we really shared the ball tonight,” Whitford said. “I thought Tyler Cochran really played smart tonight. What really stood out to me was his decision making on offense. The sign of a good player is someone that can be efficient. Myrine has been playing that way for a while too. I thought we really played smart and took the right shots and made good decisions.”
Foul trouble kept Western Michigan in the game in the first half, as they allowed the Broncos to the line eight times, with them making all eight. Ball State found its advantage down low, scoring 40 points in the paint compared to the Broncos’ 26.
“We knew they were going to foul us,” Thomas said. “We said coming into the game early on, ‘Lets get it in. Let’s see how they will defend us.’ We just executed.”
Ball State came out of halftime with a couple of turnovers and allowed the Broncos to a 15-0 run to take a 49-46 lead, their first of the game.
Timeout Ball State.
Silence is the only word to describe the atmosphere in the crowd as the Cardinals just allowed the Broncos back in the game. Cochran said they just had to stay together in order to pull through and win.
“Stay the course,” Cochran said. “Stay together. Basketball is a game of runs. It was their turn to run. We needed to stay together, and play for each other.”
Out of the timeout, Sellers drives to the bucket for a reverse layup. The next play Jacobs drives in the lane for another layup to retake the lead. A play later, Thomas catches a pass and makes a 3-pointer as a fan anxiously yells, “Come on, get in there.” A Bumbalough 3-pointer and Cochran bucket forces a Broncos’ timeout in an attempt to stop the Cardinals’ 12-2 run.
Ball State led 58-51. From there, Western Michigan was unable to put together a lead, and Ball State ultimately won the game.
“I think really close teams do a good job of handling adversity well,” Whitford said. “You could really see it in moments like tonight. I was watching the guys in the huddle, and as I am challenging them, it is their ability to communicate with each other and stay connected and not point fingers.”
Ball State travels to Ohio to take on the Bobcats, Tuesday, Feb. 1 at 7 p.m.
Contact Ian Hansen with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ianh_2.