No one was surprised that Jarrod Jones hit double digits in points on opening night for Ball State University.
The surprise was that five of his teammates joined him in scoring more than 10 points against Valparaiso University. Forwards Malik Perry and Terrence Watson and guards Randy Davis, Jauwan Scaife and Brawley Chisholm all helped Jones out on the offensive end.
The Cardinals used their glut of double-digit scorers to defeat the Crusaders 88-78 Friday night.
"I expected it from the frontcourt," Chisholm said. "We have a lot of talent in Jarrod, Malik and Terrence. The backcourt, I think that we really came in and basically knowing our roles, it came natural for us."
It was the first time since 1998 that Ball State had six double-digit scorers. Former Ball State all-conference player Bonzi Wells was among that group and was on hand in Worthen Arena on Friday.
The final score was more reminiscent of the teams Wells played on than what Ball State fans have grown to expect from coach Billy Taylor. The 88 points are the most the Cardinals have scored in regulation since 2005, when a Tim Buckley-led team beat Western Michigan University 88-81.
Ball State shot 57 percent from the field, a figure Taylor was particularly happy with.
"That was outstanding for us," he said. "A lot of it came through the paint. When you shoot 57 percent this early in the year, because defense is usually a little ahead of offense, I was just very pleased to see that."
The Cardinals jumped out to a big lead early on the strength of Perry and 3-point shooting from Scaife and Chisholm. The pair hit three 3-pointers in a three minute stretch in the first half.
Valparaiso coach Homer Drew said Ball State's long-range shooting forced a defensive change.
"They shot the ball well early to get us out of our matchup zone," Drew said. "They had the shots and they made the shots. Our game plan was to try and take away the inside a little more and when [Chisholm] hit those, we had to come out a little bit further than we wanted."
Valparaiso's extended defense allowed the visitors to work their way back into the game and trailed by only four at the break. The Crusaders crept within two, but the Cardinals went on an 11-4 run to reassert control of the game. Jones scored six of the points for Ball State.
"As the lead was narrowing down, so as I was going out I told Randy Davis ‘We got to turn the game around,'" Jones said. "I went in and I got points and helped my team."
A season after Jones debuted with 21 points and 13 rebounds for the Cardinals; Scaife scored 14 points and added two assists in his first game. The Muncie Central High School graduate also grabbed three rebounds.
"I thought he played very poised, very confident especially for a freshman in his first game being a local product," Taylor said. "There's a lot of pressure."
Perry also had an impressive start to the season. He made his first six shots and led the team with 12 points at halftime. Drew said his inside play was difficult to contain.
"We battled inside," he said. "Jarrod's a really good basketball player. Perry, [the] two big guys we never matched up well all game very well."
In the end Valparaiso's inability to consistently defend any Cardinal led to their downfall.
"We just can't give up 57 percent on defense," Drew said. "When they had shots, they made shots."