Josh Blessing

It took Ball State three minutes to get its first basket. But once the Cardinals did, they didn't look back.

Western Michigan took an early 6-0 lead in the contest, but an impressive 31-10 run toward the end of the first half gave Ball State a double-digit lead. The Cardinals held on for the 72-63 win and sole possession of first place in the Mid-American Conference West Division.

"We've come to expect when we go against Western it's always a real physical game," coach Billy Taylor said. "We obviously got off to a poor start, but we got tremendous contribution from our bench."

The huge run in the first half began with a jumper by Tyrae Robinson, followed by a pair of one-handed dunks by Pierre Sneed and Malik Perry that brought the 3,601 fans in Worthen Arena to their feet.

During the stretch by the Cardinals, sharp shooter Jesse Berry found his stroke from deep. Berry went 4-for-4 from 3-point range. He finished with 13 points in the first half, leading all scorers.

"I've been trying to encourage our guards to push the basketball and kick it ahead to Jesse and Jauwan [Scaife]," Taylor said. "We've got guys that can make shots and we were able to find them and they stepped up."

Taylor said energy from Matt Kamieniecki, Chris Bond, Robinson and Sneed off the bench changed the tempo of the game. He said, once the starters stepped back on the floor, the rhythm continued throughout the rest of the half.

"Once we came back to our starters we had a pretty good rhythm going," he said. "We continued to use our defensive pressure to get into our transition and play more of an up-and-down game."

A slow start yet again would plague the Cardinals in the second half. They took almost six minutes to hit their first bucket, but they would make just enough plays to ward off any scoring run the Broncos presented.

Taylor said the slow start in the second was due to poor possessions on the offensive end. He said early turnovers and bad shots allowed Western Michigan to switch back to its style of play, being physical.

"The second half became more of a grind it out, possession-oriented game," Taylor said. "I thought our guys did a great job of closing it out from the foul line, making our free throws down the stretch."

Three Cardinals would finish with double figures on the night. Berry had 15 points, Scaife 14 and Jarrod Jones chipped in with 12.

Scaife said he and his teammates held each other accountable when they stepped to the charity stripe.

"It's just a matter of us being mentally focused and prepared," Scaife said. "When each guy went to the line, no matter who it was, we made sure everyone was mentally focused and ready to knock them down."