They don't call him "Sparky" for no reason.
For the fifth time this season, forward Robert Owens came off the bench to post double figures in scoring, getting 11 points, three rebounds and two steals to help Ball State to its 74-58 win over rival Miami (Ohio).
The 6-foot-7-inch sophomore from Columbus, Ohio, has now scored 11 points in four games this year. His career-high of 12 points had come three games earlier against Buffalo.
"Yeah, 'Sparky' Owens, (he's a) great player," teammate Patrick Jackson said. "In time you're going to see some good things from this kid. Right now it's pretty hard for him playing Theron Smith, but he's contributed a lot and I think we're really going to need that to be successful."
Part of Owens' contribution during the Cardinals' 21-5 run to end the first half was a pair of 3-pointers and an additional bucket. Also, his defensive effort helped slow Miami's offense, thanks in part to bit of a position switch.
"In our meeting Thursday my assistants suggested we put Owens on the perimeter to guard their bigger guards," head coach Tim Buckley said. "We put him at small forward instead of power forward. He did a great job, hit a couple of big threes and was very active."
Owens was also pleased with how his altered role turned out.
"Lately I've been coming in for 'T' but tonight they put me in at wing," he said. "I think coach was just trying to experiment on the defensive end. Their guards were kind of big, so he put me in to play defense mostly. I just happened to come up with some big shots, too. I felt pretty good about what I was doing."
He especially had to feel good after his big play in the second half.
With 14 minutes to go, Miami was within 43-40 and was looking to possibly tie it. Owens ended that thought when he stole a RedHawk pass, drove down for the layup and was fouled, then made the subsequent free throw. That three-point play ignited a 17-2 run that would give the Cardinals plenty of breathing room.
"That was a huge play," Smith said. "He picked us up right there."
Miami coach Charlie Coles also mentioned the importance of that play.
"I thought Robert Owens made the difference when the game was in the balance. He came in and did a great job."
Although Owens' averages of 4.9 points and 3.3 rebounds a game are not likely to turn many heads from those outside the Ball State program, his teammates know the spark he can bring off the bench is important.
"He brings a lot of energy," Jackson said. "He gets rebounds, and he's improved his shooting and made some big baskets (14-of-40 3-pointers this season). That's a big key to our success."