As a team who is in a mid-major conference and still in the hunt for an NCAA Tournament at-large bid, Ball State (19-4, 8-4 MAC) knows it has a target on its back.
And once again, the Cardinals got their opponent's best in a 91-85 victory over the Eastern Michigan Eagles (9-13, 5-6 MAC) on Wednesday evening.
"When you're 19-4 and have an RPI like we do everyone comes in and they're jacked to play us," Ball State head coach Brady Sallee said. "We get it. It's been all year. We've talked about it. It's not easy."
The game featured 11 ties or lead changes and Ball State trailed by as many as five at multiple points in the contest.
However, after taking the lead shortly after the start of the third quarter, the Cardinals wouldn't trail again.
But that doesn't mean it didn't stay close.
Eastern Michigan kept within striking distance and used a furious full-court press in the game's final minutes to cut Ball State's 85-74 lead down to two with still over a minute to play.
The Eagles would get two chances to tie the game, but each time the Cardinals came up with much-needed stops. With a three point lead and less than 30 seconds left, senior guard Frannie Frazier broke up an Eastern Michigan pass, leading to a pair of free throws by senior guard Carmen Grande.
Grande would finish with a career-high 25 points to lead Ball State scorers. Twenty of those points came in the second half and 10 of them came from the charity stripe.
At two different points Grande passed the in-bounds pass off the back of the EMU defender below the basket, leading to two layups, which became SportsCenter Top 10 play nominees later in the night.
"I think I've been doing [that play] since I was 12 years old," Grande said. "I'm usually not able to do it, but if I see it's easy and we're not getting a better pass, I just do it."
Freshman forward Oshlynn Brown's performance off the bench helped Ball State turn around its poor rebounding performance in the first half. Brown had her third straight double-double, earning 13 rebounds and scoring a career-high 22 points.
The Eagles were led by freshman guard Courtnie Lewis who scored a career-high 29 points and picked up nine boards to help keep her team alive late.
Three other EMU players scored in double-figures.
Next up, Ball State will travel to Western Michigan on Saturday. The game will start at 2 p.m.