Cardinals overcome poor first half, blowout Eastern Michigan

As cliche as it may be, there was no other way to look at Saturday's men's basketball game between Ball State and Eastern Michigan.

It truly was a tale of two halfs as the Cardinals went on to defeat the Eagles, 90-56.

In the first half, Ball State (14-7 overall, 7-3 Mid-American Conference) struggled shooting 43 percent from the field. The Cards went into the locker room at the half trailing by four points to the Eagles, 36-32.

"In the first half we were very sluggish and very sloppy," head coach Tim Buckley said.

Approximately five minutes into the second half, it was a confrontation that nearly turned into a fight between Theron Smith and Eastern's Adam Sommer. Sommer committed an intentional foul on Smith who sprung to his feet rapidly after the foul and moved toward Sommer.

Smith later said after the game, with a smile on his face, that he sprung up so quickly because he was excited to get to the free-throw line. Regardless of reason, Smith's quick moves were worrisome enough that Buckley ran over from the bench to break up the confrontation.

"I saw the foul on Theron. I wanted to make sure I got him out of there," Buckley said. "I didn't think that was going to be a very fair trade-off. I thought he handled it very well."

"That was big," Petie Jackson said of the confrontation. "We saw the coaches had our back. There was a big foul on 'T'.

"'T' doesn't really get very emotional, so when he got fired up we all got fired up after that. He came out and was really aggressive and we just sort of followed."

It was directly after that altercation that Ball State pounced Eastern Michigan. The Cardinals went on a 29-7 scoring binge. Of those 29 points, 21 of them came from Smith.

Jackson summed up his teammate's season-high 30-point performance for the game by saying, "'T' Smith is a beast. He carried us."

Jackson returned to action Saturday after missing one game due to a broken left ring finger. Jackson was cleared to play Friday by his doctor.

"I wanted to make sure everything was OK," Jackson said. "They asked me if I wanted to take a chance. This is my senior year so nothing is going to keep me out."

The altercation happened with 14 minutes and 38 seconds remaining in the game. At that time, Ball State led by eight points. By the end of the game, Ball State had stretched that lead to 34 points.

Eastern Michigan (5-17, 1-10) head coach Jim Boone realized his team didn't handle the game all that well after the problem between Smith and Sommer.

"The second half I thought Ball State really did a good job of turning the defense up and we just simply didn't have an answer for that," Boone said. "When things started to come apart, we turned into a very lackluster defense.

"Obviously we didn't react very well to it because they came out and jumped all over us after that. It was certainly the tale of two halfs."

Smith's performance wasn't the only bright spot for Ball State Saturday, though. Lonnie Jones marked his name as well as Ball State's name in the all-time MAC record books.

Jones needed only three blocks to tie the all-time blocks record. Jones broke the record in style, as he tallied six blocks for the game setting the new record at 265.

"It's a great honor and it's something he'll remember for a long time. As I told him, he needs to thank all his teammates because the majority of those blocks were because they weren't guarding their man and they got beat. Then he had to block them," Buckley said with a laugh. "I'm really proud of Lonnie and it's another record for Ball State."


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