MEN'S BASKETBALL: Ball State freshmen spark win
Three freshman combine for 38 points in win over NC A&T
Any 3-point shot is a good shot.
Through four minutes of play against Ball State in Friday's game, North Carolina A&T attempted six 3-point shots. Trading three for two seemed to be the Aggies' strategy.
Early success turned into North Carolina A&T's vice as Ball State's consistent post touches wore them down inside. The Cardinals won the game 80-68.
The Aggies' shooting secured a 12-4 lead at 15:37 in the first half and forced a Ball State timeout.
Insert Jesse Berry.
Ball State's freshman shooting guard came off the bench and did his best Aggie impression to get his team back in the game. He hit two 3-point shots to tie the game at 20.
"He got some great looks [from 3-point range] and was knocking them down," coach Billy Taylor said. "He is a confident player, a confident shooter— it was just a matter of time before he got in a good rhythm."
From then on, Berry's fellow freshmen picked up the slack. Chris Bond and Tyrae Robinson slashed their way to the paint and the line, extending Ball State's run to 17 unanswered points.
Bond and Robinson combined for 23 points and 13 rebounds in the game. Clutch shot making by Robinson and a 3-point play by Bond down the stretch closed out the Aggies.
Bond's minutes have steadily increased over the past three games, eclipsing 20 minutes each game.
"I came out really focused to bring energy off the bench and just tried to fill my role that coach has given me," Bond said. "First couple of games were frustrating. But now, they're out of the way and I'm in the right mindset."
Bond's energy turned out to be a compliment to Jarrod Jones' scoring in the paint. The junior center played like the preseason All- Mid American Conference selection he was, scoring a career-high 25 points in the win.
Jones dominated inside. Whether it was attacking the rim, fast-break dunks or getting to the foul line, Jones didn't settle for jumpers all game.
Going up against one of the top rebounders in the NCAA, North Carolina A&T's Thomas Coleman, the junior center outplayed him in every aspect. He tallied nine rebounds while containing Coleman to six.
"We knew we had our hands full with Coleman in terms of guarding him," Taylor said. "But we also wanted to attack on the inside on the other end of the floor. We got 38 points in the paint, so I thought we did a good job being consistent with out attack."
Despite the consistent effort, North Carolina A&T would not make it easy.
Ball State's free throwing shooting, 81.6 percent for the game, helped clinch a victory over North Carolina A&T. Jones provided 11 free throws on 14 attempts.
"We knew they had a great player in Coleman, so the plan was to go to the rim and attack," Jones said. "They got six fouls early on the in [first] half, so we just wanted kept attacking."