Cardinals down EA Sports, 90-85 in final exhibition game

Effort was the key for the men's basketball team Monday night, as it narrowly defeated the EA Sports All-Stars 90-85 in what ended up being a shoot-out.

The Cardinals hit more than 49 percent of their shots, but the lack of defensive pressure allowed the All-Stars to hit 50 percent of their attempts.

"It was a good game to play," Ball State head coach Tim Buckley said. "But I don't think we played a good game."

The Cardinals failed to produce pressure on the All Stars as they continually found holes in the Ball State defense. And according to junior Rob Robbins, the team's effort level affected both sides of the court.

"We weren't ready to play on the defensive end tonight," junior Rob Robbins said. "And when our defense is flowing right, our offense flows right. For whatever reason, our defense wasn't ready, and it showed on offense."

A slow start in the first half nearly put the Cardinals in a hole they could not escape from.

The team managed only two points in the first three and a half minutes of play before sophomore Robert Owens made a jump shot from the free throw line over the outstretched arms of EA Sports' Anthony Jackson. Owens finished the night with 12 points on a perfect six for six shooting night.

With eight minutes left in the half, the Cardinals went on a 10-2 run to build a 10-point lead. The run was highlighted by junior Rob Robbins stealing the ball and racing to the other end to hit a fastbreak three-point shot.

"I was kind of looking for the three the whole way," Robbins said. "I was just trying to read the guy who was guarding me and see what he was going to do. The closer I got, the more he backed off."

Going into halftime, the Cardinals held a four point lead, 56-52.

But the Cards came out flat again in the second half as EA Sports came out and retook the lead only four minutes into the second stanza half.

The entire second half went back-and-forth, neither team gaining a definite advantage. But in the end, rebounding and defensive plays would make the difference. Ball State out-rebounded the All Stars 38-29 and key blocks by senior center Lonnie Jones held EA Sports in check as the offense struggled in the second half.

"We've got to rebound collectively," Buckley said. "Chris Williams got five rebounds for us, but he wasn't as good as he usually is offensively. So he found other ways to help us early in the second half."

Jones finished with three blocks and four rebounds for the game.

The finishing touches to the win came when junior Chris Williams hit what would be the winning shot with 25 seconds left, his 15th point of the night.

"We set up a play during the time out and Chris made a play," Buckley said. "We hoped to get him on a catch and shoot play, but they came flying at him and he did a great job of penetrating and being aggressive."

Junior Theron Smith led the Cardinals with a "quiet" 21 points, including two three-pointers.

Heading into the Maui Invitational Nov. 19 to 21, Robbins said the team found a lot to work on before facing Kansas -- preseason No. 7 in the NCAA -- in the first game.

"Tonight was definitely a learning experience," Robbins said. "We found out that if we come out flat like we did, Kansas will put it to us real fast. We've got to be ready to go from the start."