Josh Blessing

CLEVELAND -- Whether his foot was right on the line or five feet behind it, Ball State guard Jesse Berry was hitting everything in the first half Thursday night against Ohio.

Berry hadn't started since the Western Michigan game almost two months ago, but when he got the nod from coach Billy Taylor in Quicken Loans Arena on Thursday night, he provided a spark.

"[Berry's] effort early on helped open things up for us," Taylor said. "When he's able to knock down those jump shots it allows us to throw the ball in the paint or drive the ball to the basket."

Through the first nine minutes Berry had 11 of Ball State's 18 total points, going a perfect 3-for-3 from behind the arc.

"[Berry] making those long range shots certainly gives a different personality to our starting lineup." Taylor said.

Berry finished the game leading all scorers with 20 points, setting a career high for the freshman.

He shot 4-for-8 from behind the arc and hit 6-of-8 shots from the charity stripe.

The last time Berry knocked down four 3s in a single game was against Western Michigan earlier in the season -- Berry's last start.

Berry has taken no offense to losing his starting spot. He said his mindset is still the same when he steps on the court.

"Whether I'm coming off the bench [or] starting, I'm just going to play as hard as I can." Berry said.

Ohio coach John Groce said after the game that they anticipated Ball State's lineup with Berry in it, but not so early into the contest.

"Berry was terrific in the first half. He really made some hard shots," Groce said. "A couple of those we were there, he just rose up and shot it over us."

Berry was not the only freshmen that shined last night in the victory over Ohio.

High school teammates Chris Bond and Tyrae Robinson had performances that were key to the win.

Bond finished second in scoring behind Berry with 12 points and five boards, including two huge three-point plays near the end of the game.

Robinson set a career-high in minutes played with 31 and tied a career-high dishing out six assists while notching five points.

Penetration in the lane by Robinson -- especially late in the game -- is what Groce said hurt his team.

"I thought [Robinson] did a great job of getting inside of our defense through penetrating at the end of the shot clock. We had a hard time keeping him in front," Groce said. "I thought his minutes were very valuable to them."

Taylor reiterated the importance of the young guys on the team.

"I thought our freshmen stepped up huge for us tonight," Taylor said. "They certainly didn't play like freshmen."

Taylor said the energy that Robinson, Bond and Berry brought was tremendous. He said the 100 percent effort by the younger guys really makes things easier for everyone else.

"It really helps our upperclassman to have such a hungry group of young players that are capable of going out there and performing at a high level," Taylor said. "They're fearless."