Ball State stymies Jackson State en route to seventh straight win
For the first time since the 2010-11 season, Ball State men’s basketball has won seven consecutive games.
Ball State (8-4) weathered both an early storm from Jackson State (3-10) and its own cold shooting start to help run away with a 70-54 victory at Worthen Arena.
The visitors came out of the gate red-hot as they knocked down five of their first six 3-pointers, but tough Ball State defense led to Jackson State shooting just 36 percent from the field by the end of the game.
“It was frustrating for us at times on offense and I didn’t think we ever let that dictate our effort level on defense and our rebounding,” said head coach James Whitford. “If you’re a good team you can’t ever let your offense dictate your defense and the first half in particular was frustrating for us and I thought we hung through and kept fighting.”
Ball State was once again dominant on the glass, pulling down 39 rebounds on the way to a +13 margin in that category. Junior center Trey Moses led the charge with 11 boards while sophomore forward Kyle Mallers was not far behind with 10 of his own.
“I think we had some size on them and kind of used that to crash the boards hard,” Mallers said. “That’s definitely something we stress, not getting outrebounded in any game, so I think we did a pretty good job of that.”
The Cardinals got a big spark off the bench as the backups accounted for 29 points, led by senior guard Francis Kiapway with 11 points. Kiapway had a big stretch late in the first half, during which he knocked down back-to-back triples to cap off an 8-0 run that put the Cardinals in the lead for good.
“It’s a good thing when you have guys who can come off the bench and give that scoring spark or defensive spark,” Kiapway said. “There’s not really a big drop-off with our team so you can start anybody and have anybody come off the bench so it’s a great feeling knowing that when you’re coming in you can have a big impact or when you’re coming out whoever’s coming in for you can make a big impact as well.”
The Jackson State defense was able to bother Ball State’s offense throughout the first half, forcing them into 11 turnovers in the first 20 minutes by applying some less conventional defense with both a matchup zone and a 1-2-2 zone defense for stretches of the game. After Ball State made its adjustments, the team committed just five turnovers in the second half.
“[Jackson State’s defense] was very unique, it kind of took a while for us to adjust to that,” Mallers said. “Eventually we started hitting some shots and were being kind of aggressive on offense so we just took what they gave us as the game went on and did a good job of weathering the storm.”
Three different Ball State players finished the game in double figures. Senior guard Sean Sellers, Mallers and Kiapway all led the team with 11 points apiece. Mallers added his 10 rebounds and three steals to record his second double-double of the season. Sellers knocked down three shots from beyond the arc to show some signs of breaking out of his shooting slump.
“I feel like most of the shots I got tonight were pretty good looks,” Sellers said. “It’s always frustrating when we get good looks and they don’t fall but I’m still going to keep shooting and eventually everything will even itself out.
“This also was a tricky game with their defense, so I thought we did a good job of handling that, not really forcing it and giving ourselves a chance to win because we played well on defense.”
Ball State played well on defense long enough to get into a zone of its own, finishing the game shooting an even 50 percent from the field and just below 41 percent from 3-point range.
The long arms of Jackson State guard Paris Collins caused a few problems for Ball State. The 6-foot 4-inch senior played as the defender near half court in the 1-2-2 zone, finishing the game with six steals and several more deflections to go along with 17 points. It wasn’t enough as Ball State made the necessary adjustments and held the lead for the entire second half.
Ball State will get a week off before returning to Worthen Arena for its fourth of six consecutive home games. The Cardinals will host Florida A&M on Dec. 29 at 7 p.m. for the final game of its non-conference schedule.
Contact Nate Fields with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NateNada.