With a 57-47 victory against SIU Edwardsville on Saturday, Ball State University improved to 2-0 for the first time in coach Billy Taylor's tenure.
The Cardinals started off hot, opening the game with seven straight points and two dunks. Their shooting touch would go cold as the game continued, but Ball State finished strong enough to earn the win.
"We started to fall in love with the jump shot," Taylor said. "We just got settled down and understood again that we wanted to get the ball in the painted area."
With the dominant play of center Jarrod Jones, Ball State is equipped to overcome a poor shooting performance like Saturday's. Jones led all scorers with 19 points and added eight rebounds. Forward Terrence Watson added eight points and eight boards, including a crowd-thrilling alley-oop.
"It was a call from coach," Watson said. "I think he was trying to do it to get me going. It was a good call because it was a 2-3 zone."
With Jones, Watson and Malik Perry taking up plenty of space down low, opposing teams have a lot to think about when playing the Cardinals.
"You look at Watson, he's not a 3-point shooter, Perry's not a 3-point shooter and Jarrod's not," SIU Edwardsville coach Lennox Forrester said. "We thought our best chance was zone, but I was definitely scared about them on the offensive board."
The Cardinals won the rebounding battle 40-32, including 17 on the offensive end.
Unlike in Ball State's Opening Night win against Valparaiso University, it was unable to find a way to make outside shots. The Cardinals shot just 25 percent from behind the arc.
Jones said he kept encouraging the guards to shoot.
"They had a lot of open looks," Jones said. "Those are shots that our guys can hit and we're confident in them."
The score was closer than the Cardinals would have liked, but they said it would benefit them later.
"I'm proud of our guys for being able to win two distinctively different games in their first performances of the year," Taylor said.
Watson said playing a close game early in the year was important.
"That's a good team," the senior said. "We need those types of games to prepare us for later in the season."