Ball State Men's Basketball throttles Delaware State in non-conference finale
A free throw made by Delaware State's Ameer Bennett sparked a small ovation from the crowd at Worthen Arena.
That free throw snapped a 31-0 scoring run by the Cardinals, however, that would not silence the offense as Ball State Men's Basketball (9-4, 0-0 MAC) would cap off its non-conference slate with a record breaking win over Delaware State (3-11, 0-0 MEAC), 116-57.
"I was really proud of our guys and it was a really good win," head coach James Whitford said. "We really shared the ball and it started with great defense."
In the finish, the Cardinals put eight players in double figures with redshirt junior guard Josh Thompson leading the team setting a career high with 19 points. In addition, Ball State set a record for most points scored at Worthen Arena and third most points scored in a game.
"It feels good to set that career high," Thompson said. "It was nice to see that I got some shots to go in. Last game I was missing a lot, so it was nice to get some in."
Thompson went a perfect 7-7 at the line, 4-6 from inside the paint and 4-4 from outside the arc. Thompson was one of four players that combined for 54 points off the bench in the win.
"Seeing our bench preform like that just shows how much depth we have," Redshirt junior forward Tahjai Teague said. "Josh has been playing a lot this year and for him to go out and not miss a free throw or a three pointer and to score the most point on the team shows that we have a complete team. It can be anybody's night."
While the Hornets did have the first lead of the game, 2-0, they would only hold that advantage for five seconds before the Cardinals would go on a 31-0 run. The bulk of those points would come off of free throws as the Cardinals would knock down 16 points at the line. While the Hornets would eventually break the streak, the Cardinals would knock down 30 more points to take a 61-17 lead into halftime.
The second half saw the rest of the Cardinals bench jump into the game. Redshirt freshman center Blake Huggins would enter the game early in the first half to rack up a career high 10 points in the finish. A made free throw by sophomore forward Zach Gunn just over the halfway point would put the Cardinals in triple digits for the second time this season. Six more points would seal the deal for the Cardinals.
"I felt like we handled this game the right way," Whitford said. "There was a lot of elements, like coming back the day after Christmas and playing a game we're favored to win, that we really handled well. Both this game and Howard I thought we played great."
The team finishes its conference slate at 9-4 matching its pre-conference record from last season. Teague said that the non-conference schedule has taught the team a lot of valuable lessons.
"The biggest lesson we learned was at Evansville where we lost our composure after being up a lot," Teague said. "We relate to that game a lot. These games have just been a lot of lessons."
Facing last season's conference runner-up Toledo on Friday in the team's conference opener, Whitford said that their non-conference play has prepared them well for a competitive conference schedule.
"If you look at our last three, we've played really well and that's a good sign," Whitford said. "That's encouraging in and of itself. Over the long haul, that generates momentum and gives us some confidence. The challenge for us is can we get 8 to 10 percent better in the next two months."