Strong second half leads to home opening win for Ball State men's basketball
It took Ball State until midway in the second half to gain a consistent lead. But once the Cardinals had it, they didn't let it go.
Stony Brook (0-3) led Ball State (1-2) for more than 27 minutes on Friday night. After a going up 63-61 with nine minutes left on the clock, however, the Cardinals maintained a consistent lead winning 87-76 in their home opener.
“That’s a good win for us, Stony Brook is a good team,” head coach James Whitford said. “I think we’re going to look up in March and look at that as a quality win. Down eight in the first half, I thought our guys really hung together and battled.”
Ball State's 53 second half points extended its lead by as many as 12 points after trailing by eight to open the second half.
Coming out of halftime, however, Ball State went on a 12-5 run, led by junior guard Tayler Persons who hit the first four points. Persons finished with 29 points, three points shy of his career high at Ball State, shooting 12-18 on the night recording five rebounds and two assists as well.
Four out of the five Ball State starters finished with double digit points.
This victory marks Ball State’s first of the season after losing to Dayton and Oklahoma in its first two games.
“Coach is really stressing to us about the process, going every day and just embracing it,” Persons said. “I thought that’s what we did and we played hard and I’m happy to get the win.”
Ball State, which considers itself a 3-point shooting team, did not execute on many of its shot from behind the arc, going just 6-18 on the night.
The reason for that, according to Whitford, was because of the Stony Brook played defense, forcing Ball State's shooters inside more.
“[Stony Brook] was not allowing us to put them in rotation and do the type of things that normally get our shooters available, they were making the guys get inside and finish," Whitford said. "I thought we took what the defense gave us and we had to go inside tonight.”
Going inside, Ball State got to the free throw line more than it had in the previous two games combined, shooting 27-34 as a team. The Cardinals also had 38 points in the paint, 26 of which came in the second half.
In the first half, Stony Brook hit more than 53 percent of its field goals and 3-point attempts while Ball State struggled, shooting 35 percent from the field. That script switched in the second half when the Cardinals made 68 percent of its shots down the stretch compared to the Seawolves 31 percent in the same time period.
“We’ve been starting off pretty bad, so once me and Tayler got into the game we told them that we’ve got to get everybody else involved from the defensive side," sophomore forward Tahjai Teague said. "We just told them to keep playing defense, our offense is eventually going to fall.”
Teague finished with five of Ball State nine takeaways and 13 points along with six rebounds. As a team, the Cardinals forced 18 turnovers against Stony Brook.
Ball State will have another quick turnaround as it prepares for its Sunday night matchup against Oregon at 8 p.m. on Nov. 19.