Ball State fans flocked to Worthen Arena to watch their team take on the University of Evansville. If they were wanting an offensive presentation, then they went home happy.
The Cardinals defeated the Aces 88-69. It was clear after the first half that the home team came to play.
The game started out competitively. At the 11:16 mark in the first half, Ball State (6-4) led 17-16. But a few minutes later they jumped out to an eight-point lead and distanced themselves from the visiting Aces (3-9).
With a few minutes left in the first half, sophomore center Payton Sparks grabbed the ball and charged toward the basket. He completed the dunk and drew a foul, which had the Worthen Arena crowd on their feet.
But Sparks also had another moment that fired them up. During the first half, he found himself with the ball with the shot clock winding down. He shot a three-pointer and swished it. He remembered that play well after the game.
“I worked during the offseason but you know, I just want to stick to my strengths,” Sparks said. “If they double, we'll help pass it to the open guy but I mean the shot clock was going down.”
Even though the Cardinals started off slow from the field, their free-throw shooting kept them in a good position.
At the end of the first half, they went 16-of-21 (76 percent) from the foul line. Head coach Michael Lewis' squad finished the contest on 31-of-40 (78 percent) free throw shooting, which is a season-high.
When the second half started, the Cardinals picked up from where they had left off and, as a team, ended the victory with 40 rebounds. Coach Lewis talked about the team's effort on those plays.
“You've gotta have that consistently,” he said. “And that's what we're trying to strive for in this program”
Sparks led the charge for Ball State, who finished with an 18-point and 12-rebound double-double.
Besides Sparks, three other Cardinals scored double figures. Sophomore guard Jaylin Sellers led the team with 20 points, redshirt junior Jarron Coleman had 15, and sophomore forward Basheer Jihad had 12.
The energy throughout the game was high. During the second half, Coleman dove for a ball that was flying out of bounds. He saved it and jumped back in before hitting a three-point jumper.
Sellers was well aware of the energy in the building and credited the atmosphere for helping him perform well in the victory.
“We know we have a crowd behind us,” he said. “It gives us a whole other boost.”
Coach Lewis values in-state games, and this one was no different.
“I talked to the guys about growing up in his state, you know, in-state rivalries, regardless of what they were always mean something to me,” he said. “I think these guys and the team, they felt that and so I am really pleased with the way that we settled into the game.”
Ball State’s next matchup will be at Gainbridge Fieldhouse against Illinois State Dec.17 at 3:30 p.m. in the Indy Classic.
Contact Zach Carter with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ZachCarter85.
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