MEN'S BASKETBALL: Second half effort propels Ball State to victory
Defense holds Eastern Michigan to 23 points in second period, masks Cardinals' poor shooting
A second-half surge by Ball State secured a season sweep of Eastern Michigan on Wednesday.
After trailing 26-24 at halftime, coach Billy Taylor said the focus was on turning up the Cardinals' energy and effort.
Defense and hustle plays in the second half led to transition opportunities.
Freshman Matt Kamieniecki made the play of the game off one such sequence. After diving on the floor to steal the ball from Eastern Michigan forward Brandon Bowdry, Kamieniecki made a seated, no-look overhead flip to a streaking Pierre Sneed for a layup.
The play sparked a 14-4 run over seven minutes that put the game away.
"Our defense was really going at that point," Taylor said. "We had a lot of activity with our hands and were able to force some turnovers. We were able to force some misses and that allowed us to get out in transition."
Plenty of fast break points made up for a poor shooting night — 38.2 percent — by Ball State.
While the Cardinals were getting good shots in the first half, they were uncharacteristically missing them. Easy baskets allowed the Ball State to shoot 50 percent in the second half.
Taylor said the anchor for everything was Ball State's defense.
It held Eastern Michigan to 23 points in the second half. Most of those came in the final four minutes.
"We wanted to play team defense on Bowdry and make him take tough shots and work for his points," Taylor said. "He got some good lucks early that he knocked down, but we wanted to keep the pressure on him. I thought we really swarmed to the ball. Our team defense collectively was really nice."
Bowdry scored 17 points, but Ball State forced him into four turnovers and limited his looks at the basket.
Jarrod Jones was the highest scorer of the night with 18 points. He also added 14 rebounds for his 10th double-double of the season.
Two games removed from suffering an injury against Toledo, Jones said he was finally back to full health.
"I've been doing a lot of treatment with our trainers, and they've been doing a great job getting me back to where I need to be," Jones said. "I just went out on the court and left it all out on the floor."
Wednesday's win kept Ball State on pace with Western Michigan for the Mid-American Conference West Division lead.
The Cardinals have three games left on the regular season schedule against Central Michigan, Western Michigan and Northern Illinois.
After the collapse last season to lose the MAC West crown, Jones said the team is poised to not repeat its past mistakes.
"We've definitely been down this road before," Jones said. "We know what it takes — we know what can happen if we don't give 100 percent. So I think me and the rest of our teammates — we all know we have to go out there and play every night like it's the last game of the season."