Conor Hockett

Mid-American Conference games are known to be physical, so Ball State took all the free shots they could get.

The Cardinals went 30-42 from the free throw line en route to a 64-55 win over Central Michigan Saturday.

It was a sloppy, turnover-laced game where whoever made the least amount of mistakes won. Coach Billy Taylor called it typical grind it out MAC basketball.

"I was happy with our guys showing a will and a way to be able to win this ball game when I didn't think we played our best," Taylor said. "Our defense stood strong in some key stretches. I really think we did a pretty nice job defensively for most of the game."

One stretch probably not included in Ball State's defensive tapes may have decided the game.

To open the second half, Ball State went on a run to tie the game at 32 with 15:51 left.

Central Michigan senior Jalin Thomas scored the next 10 points for the Chippewas before going down with what looked like a serious ankle injury.

Momentum was clearly in Central Michigan's favor when Thomas went down and they never got it back.

After the injury, freshman Trey Zeigler tried to pick up the slack for the Chippewas offensively, but never got in a groove.

Ball State wore them down over the last 11 minutes and managed to do enough to earn the victory.

"You never know what would have happened, but Zeigler wasn't the guy that was hurting us at that point of the game, it was pretty much all Jalin Thomas," Taylor said.

Typically the Cardinals run the ball through Jarrod Jones in the low post and then kick it out for open 3-pointers when the defense collapses. Throughout the game, however, Taylor said Ball State utilized a different type of offense to break down Central Michigan.

"They were putting more pressure on the wings which left driving lanes for Randy [Davis], Tyrae [Robinson] and Jauwan to get to the basket quite a bit," Taylor said. "I thought our guards did a nice job of penetrating gaps. And then stepping up late game—we knew they were going to foul us. Fortunately, we stepped up and made free throws."

When familiarity is so key in MAC matchups, the little things like knocking down free throws end up being the difference.