In a game that consisted mostly of large scoring runs, Ball State secured a share of the Mid-American Conference West Divisional title Saturday by defeating long-time rival, Miami (Ohio), 74-58.
Ball State now only needs to win one of its next two games in order to secure an outright MAC West title, something Ball State has never accomplished.
The first run of the game came near the end of the first half as the Cardinals went on a 21-7 run to end the half. Ball State went into the locker room ahead, 38-25. The second run of the game, however, came from the RedHawks as Miami went on a 15-3 run to cut Ball State's lead to three early in the second half.
"I thought our comeback in the second half was beautiful," Miami coach Charlie Coles said. "I just thought that in order for us to do that we would have to play at a high rate offensively and we weren't able to do that. We made some mistakes."
Ball State took advantage of those "mistakes" and retaliated with a third run, 27-8, as the Cardinals took a 70-48 lead with a little more than six minutes remaining in the contest.
The win allowed the Cards (18-9 overall, 11-5 MAC) to stretch its home winning streak to eight.
"I don't know of any other team, other than Kent State, that is as good on their home court," Coles said. "You get over here and boy (Ball State) can shoot that ball."
As a team, Ball State found success from behind the three-point arc going 11-24 for the game and shooting 45 percent for the contest. Many of those threes came in part from improved ball movement.
"I thought we did a really good job of that tonight," senior Petie Jackson said. "Good ball movement resulted in us playing pretty well."
With that ball movement came assists, as Ball State finished with 14 as a team. Several of those assists came after dishing the ball inside to the post position to Lonnie Jones or Theron Smith.
"A big emphasis for us at this point in the season is to go inside and then out because we have been settling too much for jump shots and not going inside enough," head coach Tim Buckley said. "By doing that ,we are having good balance inside and on the perimeter."
Many of the assists came in part from Miami's double-team defensive effort on Theron Smith. According to Jackson, that played right into the Cardinals' game plan.
"We think every team for the rest of the year is just going to double down on 'T,'" Jackson said. "That's our basic game plan. We are going to just pound it down to 'T.' If they don't double, then he is going to do what he needs to do and if they do bring the double team then he'll kick it out and make the open pass. We have some good shooters on this team to make some open shots."
Even after being double teamed, Smith was able to mark his 17th double-double of the season with 18 points and 12 rebounds.
Miami (11-16, 8-8) held its own in the beginning of the contest and in the first five minutes of the second half with that 15-3 run. Coles said, however, Ball State just proved a bit too strong for his RedHawks.
"I thought we did a pretty good job for a while," Coles said. "And then I thought what they had was better than what we had."
Saturday's win marked the first time in four meetings between Ball State and Miami that the Cardinals were able to find a win. Buckley said it was a good feeling to be able to finally find some success against the RedHawks.
"This league is funny in that regard. You see certain teams beat certain teams," Buckley said. "We've had success against Bowling Green, Bowling Green has had success against Miami and Miami has had success against us.
"So, you really want to try to get into a rhythm where you can beat anybody on any given night. I really think it was a big lift for our guys to feel like we came out and played Miami tough."