A late scoring run led Ball State (11-7, 2-3 MAC) to its second conference win of the season on the road against Central Michigan (14-4, 3-2 MAC). This victory put an end to a three-game losing streak for the Cardinals.
The Cardinals jumped out to a 12-2 lead in the first few minutes, holding the Chippewas to 1 of 7 shooting. Head coach James Whitford said he was proud of how his team came out swinging.
“We lost that first four minutes three games in a row,” Whitford said. “It was great to get on the right side of the ledger there. Obviously, we were really ready, and I thought our defense was terrific.”
Redshirt senior guard Tayler Persons was a human highlight reel in the first half. He scored 15 points on 6 of 10 shooting including a pair of threes. Persons finished with 21 – his seventh 20-point game of the season.
Ball State went into the locker room up six. The second half was when the tides began to turn.
After a Cardinal bucket to open the second frame, the Chippewas went on a 9-0 scoring run to take their first lead of the game at the 17:25 mark. Things were looking bleak for Ball State midway through the second half as Central Michigan had taken a five-point lead as well as the momentum.
Whitford called a timeout.
“There was a moment where I was a little worried about our team, and we looked frustrated,” Whitford said. “I asked them, ‘Are you guys ready to break?’ They came out, and they hit them in the mouth. That was a hard stretch for us, and we responded the right way.”
The Cardinals came out looking fresh and hungry. They retook the lead after going on an 11-0 run and outscored the Chippewas 20-4 in the seven minutes following the timeout.
The Cardinals rode that scoring wave to an 83-72 victory. While Persons was fairly quiet in the second half, redshirt junior guard K.J. Walton and senior center Trey Moses picked it up offensively.
Walton had eight points in the first half but exploded in the second, shooting an efficient 8 of 9 from the field to end the game with a career-high 24 points.
“K.J. really played well. This type of game was set up for him because they were trying to press and doing a lot of things that allowed him to get loose to the basket,” Whitford said.
Moses found himself with a goose egg in the scoring column at halftime, missing four shots in the process. He made 5 of 6 in the second half and drained all three of his free-throw attempts to end the game with 13 points.
“Everybody that’s played has been in a moment where the basket looks as big as the ocean,” Whitford said. “You can’t let those things take away your kind of psyche. You got to make sure you still defend, you still hustle, and it’ll find its way back around.”
The Cardinals will look to keep it rolling Tuesday when they host Miami (Ohio) at 7 p.m. in Worthen Arena.