MEN'S BASKETBALL: Ball State's late second half run sparks win over Ohio
Cardinals make comeback from nine down to get overtime victory
CLEVELAND -- Down nine points with 2:42 left in the game, Ball State looked like Ohio's stepping stone to the next round of the Mid-American Conference once again.
Ohio beat Ball State in Muncie last season in the MAC Tournament, and it looked like déjà vu in Cleveland.
But the Cardinals weren't ready to go home just yet.
Ball State pulled off an improbable comeback in front of a pro-Ohio crowd at Quicken Loans Arena to beat Ohio 76-73 in overtime to advance to the semifinals of the Mid-American Conference Tournament on Thursday.
"[Ball State] had eight field goals the entire second half — three of them in the last two minutes and 40 seconds," Ohio coach John Groce said. "We just did not get the job done there late."
A pair of three-point plays by freshman Chris Bond and a transition 3-point shot by Randy Davis pushed the game into overtime. Ball State carried its momentum into the extra period and didn't let up.
Another dagger 3-pointer by Randy Davis and timely scoring from Jarrod Jones and Tyrae Robinson kept Ball State in front. It came down to a final shot for Ohio.
Nick Kellogg's desperation 3-point attempt fell short off the rim and the buzzer sounded. Ball State's Jesse Berry threw the ball in the air and the celebration was on.
"Kellogg is a killer shooter and when a shooter shoots it you think it's going in," Berry said. "Yeah, I thought it was good."
Lucky for Ball State, it didn't and the Cardinals advanced.
This was in large part because of Berry. He carried the Cardinals offensively in the first half, scoring 16 points. He ended up with a career-high 20 points.
"Jesse's effort early on helped to open things up for us," Ball State coach Billy Taylor said. "When he hits those jump shots, it allows us to throw the ball in the paint or drive to the basket. Jesse making those long-range shots certainly gives a lot of confidence and gives a personality to our starting lineup."
Ohio took notice and made a concerted effort to limit Berry's attempts in the second half. He only scored four points in the second half and those all came on free throws.
As the Bobcats clamped down on Cardinal shooters, Ball State's offense became stagnant. Not until late in the second half did Ball State make a switch.
Taylor inserted Robinson and Davis into the lineup to run more pick-and-rolls to back Ohio off. Taylor said that was the key down the stretch.
"We feel like Tyrae is really good in ball screen action," Taylor said. "So we try to put him in those situations where he can use his speed and athleticism to get in the paint and find people. He did a great job of breaking the defense down."
Robinson played a season-high 31 minutes in Thursday's game and had the ball in his hands down the stretch. He scored five points and had five assists. His free throw at the end pushed the lead to four and sealed the game.
"He made big shots," Berry said. "There was one time he got in the lane and spread everyone out and shot a floater that put us up. He made a lot of big plays down the stretch — an effort play or some other play to keep everybody going."
Ball State will play Kent State at 9:30 p.m. Friday for the chance to play in the championship.
"We're close to Kent so they're going to have a lot of fans here," Taylor said. "It was close the last time we played, but then they ran away with about 10 minutes left in the ball game.
"They're certainly deserving of all the accolades they won. We're going to have to get ourselves mentally ready for the challenge ahead."