Josh Blessing

The past few meetings between Ball State and Western Michigan have been scrappy, chippy and everything in between.

That continued again Saturday afternoon as Ball State defeated the preseason Mid-American Conference West Division favorite 78-69 in its conference opener.

"Today is what we've come to expect when it comes to MAC play," Coach Billy Taylor said. "A really physical, tough and gritty type of game. I was really proud of our guys for being able to get a lead early on then maintain it."

When asked about the likability between the two teams, senior point guard Randy Davis couldn't hide his feelings about the Broncos.

Simply put, these two teams aren't too found of each other.

"I don't think I'd hang around with them," Davis said after a few laughs with the media. "But, they're real competitive from start to finish and they never give up. "

The whole game was physical each and every possession. There were a total of four technical fouls and one flagrant on the afternoon.

"It's two teams that play extremely hard and sometimes your emotions get the best of you," Taylor said. "In the end we have tremendous respect for their coaching staff and players. It's the same for them with us."

The Cardinals' defensive pressure in the first few minutes of the game forced the Broncos to commit five turnovers on their first six possessions.

Ball State's (9-4, 1-0 MAC) offense matched its defensive intensity, going on an 8-0 run in the first half to extend the lead to 17-8. Western Michigan never led in the contest.

The Broncos leading scorer coming into Saturday's game, Matt Stainbrook, got in foul trouble early in the first half which caused problems for the Broncos.

Ball State senior forward Jarrod Jones wasted no time attacking the paint and drawing fouls. 

"(Stainbrook ) is a big strong player, so I was forced to use my athleticism and try and go at him," Jones said. "I was fortunate enough to draw fouls and have him play off me a little bit."

Jones led all scorers with 20 points and eight rebounds, his seventh 20 plus performance on the season.

Davis followed close behind with 16 points and five assists.

Davis passed Bonzi Wells for fifth all-time in Ball State history with 387 total assists. Chris Bond and Jesse Berry both hit double figures with 11 points each.

"I was most pleased by the presence of our seniors. Jarrod and Randy leading the way really set the tone leading up to this first league game," Taylor said. "I thought they did a terrific job in showing their leadership and helped us really secure a great home victory."

The Broncos were led in scoring by guard Demetrius Ward with 16 points and Stainbrook posted 14.

Ball State's largest lead of 16 points came midway through the second half. Western Michigan (6-9, 0-1 MAC) made a late run to pull within six but the Cardinals responded limiting any chance of a late comeback.

The West Division will likely come down to Western Michigan and Ball State for the top spot, just like it has the past three seasons. Davis said this win is the best way to start off conference play, because this won't be the last time they face the Broncos this season.

"Both sides really just want to win," he said "You want to start off MAC play with a 'W' and really get your team going throughout the rest of the conference."