In its fifth Mid-American Conference contest and first matchup with a West Division foe, Ball State men’s basketball (12-6, 3-2 MAC) defeated Central Michigan (11-7, 1-4 MAC) 98-83 Jan. 17 for its third conference win in a row.

“It was a fun college basketball game, both ways,” head coach James Whitford said. “I thought we played the same way on offense for 40 minutes, defensively what we were trying to do was relatively complex in a short turnaround and we made a fair amount of mistakes early in the game.”

A high scoring first half went back and fourth between Ball State and Central Michigan. With the Cardinals trailing 30-26, the Chippewas went on a 6-point run to extend a 10-point lead with eight minutes left to play in the half, but Ball State did not go away.

Ball State stats:

Field goal percentage: 55.6

Rebounds: 43

Point in paint: 44

Leading scorer: Trey Moses - 20

Central Michigan stats:

Field goal percentage: 35.3

Rebounds: 34

Point in paint: 10

Leading scorer: Marcus Keene - 29 

Over the span of five minutes the Cardinals responded with an 18-point run, grabbing a 44-36 lead with 2:35 left. The Cardinals would take a 48-43 lead into halftime.

“It felt like you were playing in an open gym,” sophomore guard Tayler Persons said. “The pace was just up and down — up and down you could see them getting tired.”

The Chippewas came out fast in the second half with a Cecil Williams layup and Marcus Keene 3-pointer to tie it up 48-48. But like Persons said, Central Michigan was getting tired and Ball State locked in defensively. After Central Michigan shot 45.7 percent from the field in the first half, the Cardinals held the Chippewas to 24.2 percent in the second.

“We are certainly getting better on defense and yet we are not were we need to be,” Whitford said.

Keene, the leading scorer in the nation, scored 20 points in the first but only managed nine in the second, including a 13-minute span where he missed all his field goals.

“[Persons] did a really good job defensively,” Whitford said. “I thought our defense got better and [Keene] wore out.”

Persons finished with 18 points and four assists. Four other Ball State players had double digits in the scoring department and sophomore forward Trey Moses notched his third double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds.

With three MAC wins in a row, Ball State travels to Bowling Green Jan. 21 in a rematch of the Cardinals' 76-71 loss at Worthen Arena Jan. 7.

“I feel like we owe them one,” Persons said. “They came in here and took a win. More credit to them, they played harder then us and that is our motto, to be the hardest-playing team.”