In a game where Ball State men’s basketball (13-7, 4-3 MAC) and Eastern Michigan (12-8, 4-3 MAC) were trading runs, hustle plays made a difference in the 88-80 victory for the Cardinals Jan. 24.

“I thought that [hustle] was the key to the game,” head coach James Whitford said. “I told our team I couldn’t be more proud of the way we won.”

Ball State statistics:

Field goal percentage: 47.5

Assists: 17

Rebounding: 42

Leading scorer: Franko House — 17

Eastern Michigan statistics:

Field goal percentage: 39.7

Assists: 14

Rebounding: 34

Leading scorer: Ray Lee — 24 

In the last game between Eastern Michigan and Ball State, there were six technical fouls called at Worthen Arena. Last night, there was seven. Whitford said a rivalry is starting to build due to the game-winning Francis Kiapway shot a year ago and all of the technical fouls.

“We have had some heated battles,” Whitford said. “It is certainly becoming that way [a rivalry].”

After two technical fouls on Eastern Michigan, the Cardinals opened up a 28-18 lead only to be slowed by a 7-0 Eagle run in 70 seconds.

After the first half, senior forward Franko House contributed eight of the 12 points in the paint and held Eastern Michigan’s second leading scorer to only six points in the first half, giving Ball State a 38-30 halftime lead.

“We did a great job on [Eastern Michigan forward-center James Thompson] defensively,” Whitford said. “He is really strong and really physical, most of his shots were outside shots — he didn’t get a whole lot of shots around the rim and that was key.”

House finished with 17 points and nine rebounds after scoring three points and grabbing one rebound just a game ago, and the Cardinals had a 36-20 advantage in the paint.

The hustle plays continued in the second half to help fend off Eastern Michigan.

After redshirt sophomore forward Tahjai Teague missed a free-throw attempt, junior forward Sean Sellers attacked the ball and forced a jump ball with the possession arrow pointing at Ball State.

On the next play, junior guard Jeremie Tyler connected from beyond the arc to put the Cardinals up 49-37. Tyler finished the game with 14 points in 23 minutes of play.

“Sean’s tie up was huge,” Whitford said. “We got the tie up and banged a three in the corner.”

Eastern Michigan would not go away easily though.

Just like the first half, the Eagles went on a quick 7-0 run, cutting the Cardinal lead to 59-56 with 10:03 left in the game. Ball State responded in a way Whitford compared to the Buffalo game.

“I thought they were composed,” Whitford said. “I called a timeout and no one seemed rattled.”

After a Toledo win and Northern Illinois loss, there is a four-way tie atop the Mid-American Conference West Division with Eastern MIchigan and Ball State joining Toledo and NIU with 4-3 records. 

Whitford said it is extremely important to steal wins on the road.

Ball State will be in action at 1 p.m. Jan. 28 in Worthen Arena when Western Michigan comes to Muncie.