Cards reclaim tournament championship

Ball State regained its tournament crown in the First Merchants Classic after defeating Austin Peay Saturday night 81-60 , despite shooting problems in the first half.

The Cardinals (4-1) shot for 18.2 percent in the first half from behind the arc -- usually the Cards' most deadly weapon.

"To have a 21-point win and feel like we can play better is definitely a tribute to our guys," head coach Tim Buckley said.

Before the contest began, Buckley noticed something was not right with his team.

"Our run-through wasn't very crisp," he said. "I think it kind of carried over a little bit. It's a long season though, and that is going to happen. Our shooting percentage is predicated by our defense," Buckley said. "In the first half, we had only eight deflections and we've been averaging over 40 a game."

Senior guard Petie Jackson, who finished with a team-high 20 points and was named to the All-Tournament team, was surprised with the problems the Cards were having in the first half .

"I really don't know (what the problem is)," he said. "It's just something we are going to have to work out. It seems like we come out a little flat in the first half. As we grow and mature, I think we will get better at that."

The second half of Saturday's game for Ball State was a different story, however.

Ball State came out from the break and nailed four straight 3-pointers in the first four minutes.

"We really emphasized shooting the three," Jackson said. "Coach just encourages us to keep shooting. That first half they just weren't falling for us. We are still going to shoot them though."

The Cardinal shooting problems in the first half could be credited partially to the Austin Peay defensive game plan.

Governor head coach Dave Loos said defending against the three-point shot was very important to his team.

"Our game plan was to not cover down in the post and to play what we call 'push defense,'" Loos said. "We were going to stay on the perimeter out the with (Ball State's) shooters."

One player from Austin Peay that kept the Cardinals on its defensive toes was Nick Stapleton. Stapleton was the leading scorer in the first half with 13 points. He ended the game as the leading scorer also with 29 points.

"I think he is playing a lot smarter," Loos said of his player. "He penetrated the defense. I thought he had a terrific tournament."

Stapleton was also named to the All-Tournament team.

The player who set the tone of the game and tournament for Ball State was Theron Smith. Smith was named to the All-Tournament team and was also crowned the MVP of the tournament.

Smith ended the game with 17 points and 11 rebounds. That just after Friday night when Smith finished with a career-high 17 rebounds.

"Sometimes you take him for granted," Buckley said of Smith. "What I really admire about him this year is everyday in practice he comes to work. He has played to the level he needs to play at."

"We really wanted to get this championship back," Buckley said. "Even at times when we didn't play well, we adjusted.


More from The Daily

Loading Recent Classifieds...