After trailing by 20 points, Toledo (18-5, 10-2 MAC) cut the deficit to four with one minute and 12 seconds left in the second half.
The ball lies in the hands of Ball State (11-11, 6-5 MAC) junior guard Luke Bumbalough, who stands along the perimeter behind the left wing.
As the shot clock approaches 10 seconds, Bumbalough takes one dribble forward, rises above Toledo redshirt freshman guard Ra’Heim Moss and sinks his fifth 3-pointer.
“I saw the shot clock kind of going down, [we] we're trying to get inside and play inside out,” Bumbalough said. “But then I got it with little time on the shot clock and then I just saw him backpedaling pretty quick, so I just tried to rise up and shoot when I felt comfortable shooting it.”
In Ball State’s 93-83 victory against Toledo, the Cardinals shot 14-for-29 from the 3-point line and totaled 17 assists. Bumbalough said the offense opened up because they emphasized sharing the ball.
“It's contagious,” Bumbalough said. “When one guy's making that extra pass, the other guy wants to make it and I feel like that's why we were so efficient on offense, guys were playing for each other. We were a family out there and that's why we closed it down the stretch because we're all just together the whole time.”
Head Coach James Whitford said the Cardinals wanted to get freshman center Payton Sparks involved early and often. Sparks scored a team-high 18 points, and Whitford said Ball State benefited from drawing fouls and playing aggressive.
“We needed to get Payton [Sparks] the ball,” Whitford said. “[Justin] Shumate is a great player and getting him in foul trouble was important for us. He's a difference-maker for them, especially on the defensive end. I thought their backup [Mihai] Carcoana played pretty well, but getting Shumate in foul trouble made a big difference in the game.”
Sparks recorded his sixth double-double of the season with 11 rebounds, and also contributed four assists, one shy of his career-high. Sparks said he felt comfortable passing out of the post and credited his teammates for moving without the ball.
“I know that they're going to hit shots when I look,” Sparks said. “First, I'm looking to see what that I have for them, and then I'll look for myself. I know they're coming [to] double, because Shumate [was] in foul trouble, so I was looking for them and they were cutting tonight, it was fun to play.”
With twelve minutes and 24 seconds left in the second half, Sparks blocked a layup attempt from Carcoana directly in front of the student section. After the block, Sparks gathered the rebound and yelled directly into the crowd. Sparks said the Cardinals fed off the energy in Worthen Arena.
“It was amazing man,” Sparks said. “I definitely felt it from the crowd, it was awesome. [The] team played well though, [it] was a great team game.”
The Rockets led 67-66 with under nine minutes left in the second half, but the Cardinals outscored them 27-16 to finish the half. Whitford said Ball State’s ability to finish is a sign of progression.
“We showed a lot of composure tonight and a lot of resilience,” Whitford said. “It was certainly a sign of growth for us.”
The Cardinals return to Worthen Arena Feb. 8 against Central Michigan (5-13, 4-3 MAC). Tipoff is 7 p.m.