Sophomore forward Zach Gunn looks for an open player to set up for a scoring play in a game against Valparaiso at the Athletics-Recreation Center on Dec 17, 2018. The Cardinals won 77-61. Jack Williams,DN
Dominance in the paint leads Ball State Men's Basketball over Valparaiso
A little over a year ago, redshirt senior guard Tayler Persons stunned the Crusaders with a three pointer in the dying seconds to lift the Cardinals over Valpo.
Tonight, Persons went 2-3 in the second half from outside the arc to help lead Ball State Men's Basketball (7-4, 0-0 MAC) over Valparaiso (6-5, 0-0 MVC), 77-61.
"They did a really good job in focusing in on me and having a game plan," Persons said. "I just have to let the game come to me and that's why I have a really great team around me. That's what help me be successful."
However, the Cardinals weren't knocking it down from deep from tipoff. In the first half, the Cardinals wen't 1-10 from 3 point range, but strong play from inside the paint kept the Cardinals in it. 28 of the team's 35 points were scored from inside the arc.
"Since we weren't hitting from three, we were just playing defense," Redshirt junior guard K.J. Walton said. "We were amping up the defense as the game went on and that's why I think we won."
Walton was one of four Cardinals that broke into double figures in the win. He was 8-10 from inside the paint to finish with 17 points and a slam dunk in the final minute of the game.
"I was just glad I was thrown a good hoop and it really got the crowd involved," Walton said. "I'm really happy we got the win."
The game opened up close as predicted. Nine ties and five lead changes saw the Cardinals with the lead, 35-25, at the end of the first half. With Walton breaking double figures and three with seven, the team was looking for a continuation of strong paint play into the second half.
"We wanted to get the ball inside because we've done such a good job of attacking post traps and traditionally, Valpo traps," head coach James Whitford said. "We had to get a feel if they were going to do that and if they didn't we were going to make sure we got it in the paint a lot."
The second half saw the Cardinals take off and capitalize on every opportunity. The team knocked down 18 points off of turnovers and eight off of second chances. Persons went from zero points in the first half to finish with 14 by the end of the game. While the Crusaders were able to pull within 10 with 3 minutes left, the Cardinals were able to hold off any sort of comeback for the win.
Wrapping up non-conference play, the Cardinals win puts the team at 4-1 against Missouri Valley teams with wins over Indiana State, Evansville, Loyola Chicago and now Valparaiso. Whitford said these MVC matchups really prep the team for conference play.
"I think it's like our league," Whitford said. "I think it's a good league and the MAC's a good league. It was a good test for us and were lucky to come out 4-1."
In that lone loss to Evansville, Persons said that game acted as a reality check for the team. Tonight, the win was something to be proud of.
"We got hit on the mouth in that game," Persons said. "Tonight, I'm really proud of my guys. I love to come out here with them and play a really good team in Valpo and beat them at home. It's a good feat for us. We just need to get better."