In a neck-in-neck battle half way through the first half, redshirt junior guard KJ Walton would down 19 points in the first 20 minutes to give Ball State Men’s Basketball (3-3, 0-0 MAC) a substantial lead throughout the game and eventually a 82-72 win over Evansville (2-3, 0-0 MVC)
“All in all, it was a good win,” head coach James Whitford said. “I was most proud of the first half because we weren’t scoring as well like we were in the second half, but we got all three loose balls and had big hustle plays.”
The Cardinals had a strong game in turning defense into offense. Ball State stole the ball seven times, scoring 14 points off of turnovers and 18 fast break points. The Cardinals also stayed with the play scoring 22 points off of second chances and gathered 13 offensive rebounds.
Whitford said Walton benefits the most when the team can create strong defense into offense. Walton recorded 20 points on the day going 8-9 from field goal range and 4-6 at the line.
“He’s so explosive and no one benefit well from us defending well better than him,” Whitford said. “He thrives in the open court. Usually the better we defend, it correlates to him playing really well.”
From tipoff, the game remained close with Evansville taking a 16-13 lead a little over half way into the first. The Cardinals would go on a 14-1 run to take an 11-point lead. The Cardinals lead would not dip below nine going into the end of the first half with a 37-26 lead. Ball State thrived inside the paint knocking down 22 points.
The second half saw the Purple Aces match the Cardinals on both ends of the court. Both teams hit 6-9 three pointers and scored seven points off of turnovers. However, Evansville held the advantage inside the arc going 17-27 from field goal range to Ball State’s 15-27. The Purple Aces would outscore the Cardinals 46-45 in the second half, but it wouldn’t be enough as the Cardinals would roll to a win.
The Cardinals even out to 3-3 on the season and will face the Purple Aces again in about two weeks in Evansville. This is the first time the Cardinals have faced Evansville in over a decade and are looking forward to the next game in this home and home series. Whitford said he has respect for what head coach Walter McCarty has done with the program.
“We’ll see where this rivalry goes with their schedule and our schedule, but I have tremendous respect for Walter McCarty,” Whitford said. “I saw them play and what they’ve turned is their lack of size from a weakness into a strength. It’s a sign of great coaching.”
The Cardinals will face Tiffin next on Nov 27 at 7 p.m. at Worthen Arena.