In a homecoming of sorts for five different Cardinals, Ball State Men's Basketball (5-3, 0-0 MAC) was able to pull away from IUPUI (5-3, 0-0 Horizon) in the late second half for the 85-75 win.
"It was a really hard fought game between two teams that are playing really well," head coach James Whitford said. "Are guys knew coming in that this was going to be a tough game. I thought we beat a really good team today."
One player who was on Ball State's radar coming into the game was junior guard Camron Justice. The Vanderbilt transfer has averaged 20 points per game and is 91 percent at the line. After Justice knocked down 19 points in the first half, going 8-10 from field goal range and 3-5 outside the arc, the Cardinals would limit him to nine points in the second half and putting him into foul trouble late.
"We did a better job defending him on the screening action in the second half," Whitford said. "Some of them were just great shots, so hats off to a great player. He was curing into the lane too much and I thought we did a better job there."
The game would start off in favor of the Cardinals going on a 13-5 scoring run to take the lead before the Jaguars would climb back into it. A goaltending call on the Jaguars would give sophomore forward Zach Gunn points from behind the arc. The game remained close throughout the first half with the lead changing nine times with two ties with a halftime score of 44-40 Ball State.
The second half held a similar theme with emotions beginning to ignite between both teams. A technical foul by IUPUI's Ahmed Ismail and various jawing back and forth between players, added more tension to the game alongside the close score.
"We definitely had to stay in moment, focused and that was the biggest thing," Gunn said. "Coach said it was going to be a dog fight and I just stay in the moment each play. Every game we play people are going to be talking, but we can't let it lead to anything. We did a good job of keeping our heads cool."
A one handed jam by Gunn at the 7:30 point of the second half would give the Cardinals a 67-60 lead and would allow them to ride that momentum to a 10 point win over the Jaguars. Gunn wasn't the only one who was slamming down points as redshirt junior forward Tahjai Teague had three dunks on the day. Teague would finish with a team high 19 points.
"Trey is the best passer in our conference and he gave me two of my three dunks," Teague said. "He's a great passer and he's fond of me when he's being double teamed."
With a handful of player coming from the Indianapolis area and Ball State only a hour down the road, it was no surprise that a see of red was abundant inside Indiana Framers Coliseum. Teague, an alumni of Pike High School just 20 minutes away from the fairgrounds, was well aware of his family's attendance at todays game.
"My family is always scream and yelling at games. That's how they are," Teague said. "Especially my sister. I might not hear my mom, but if I want to know where they're sitting, I just need to listen for my sister."