RECAP: Ball State men's basketball vs. Northern Illinois
It took overtime to decide who would sit alone atop the Mid-American Conference West Division.
Ball State men's basketball (16-10, 7-6 MAC) did not obtain a lead till the first minutes of overtime sending them to an 81-72 victory over Northern Illinois (14-12, 6-7) Tuesday.
"What a win," head coach James Whitford said. "We didn't lead all the way through regulation? Did I hear that right?"
Ball State stats:
Field goal percentage: 44.4
3-PT percentage: 38.9
Leading scorer: Ryan Weber — 23
Northern Illinois stats:
Field goal percentage: 41.8
3-PT percentage: 46.2
Leading scorer: Eugene German — 20
Yes, you did hear that right coach.
With 4:10 left in the second half of play the Cardinals put together an 8-0 run with 6 of those points coming from senior forward Ryan Weber's two 3-pointers. Weber's second 3-ball in that transition came off one of 13 assists from redshirt sophomore guard Tayler Persons to tie the game at 61.
Ball State did not have a lead or for 38:40 of this game. Whitford credited his team's defense in the comeback.
"We played sloppy for a lot of the game," Whitford said. "The thing I was proud of is we didn't let that effect our defense."
Ball State had 21 turnovers in the game but did not allow the Huskies to make a field goal from the 8:09 mark in the second half till the 2:40 mark of overtime.
In overtime, Ball State's shooting caught fire as the Cardinals made their first four shots from the field to extend a 72-61 lead. Two of those shots came from senior forward Franko House who didn't get his first bucket till the 1:20 mark of second half.
House finished with nine points and seven rebounds.
After an incomplete comeback attempt against the Ohio Bobcats on Feb. 11, Whitford said his team played with poise against Northern Illinois.
"Comparing this to Ohio, our ability to maintain our composure when the game wasn't going our way was the difference," Whitford said.
The Huskies would not go away easily as Northern Illinois came within four points a few times during overtime. Ball State would go 7-7 from the free throw line in overtime to hold the lead and secure the victory. The Cardinals were a perfect 11-11 from the charity stripe for the game.
Weber finished with 23 points on 7-11 shooting from beyond the arc and scored his 1000th career point in the win over Northern Illinois. Junior guard Jeremie Tyler provided a spark from the bench with 18 points and two steals.
Coming into Tuesday night's MAC games, four teams were tied atop the MAC West Division with 6-6 records, but Ball State's win over Northern Illinois and losses from Central Michigan and Toledo puts the Cardinals alone in first place in the west.
Whitford said he didn't know the scores around the league but when he heard Ball State is alone atop the MAC West he knew the importance, but wasn't betting on it yet.
"It's big," Whitford said. "But, I am still waiting to hear the scorers on everybody else."
Ball State will be in action against the now second place Central Michigan Chippewas (16-10, 6-7) on Saturday as they travel to Mt. Pleasant for one of the Cardinals' three out of five road trips to close out the regular season.