Ball State senior forward Kyle Mallers looks for an opening while being guarded by IUPUI graduate forward Zo Tyson during the Cardinals' game against the Jaguars Dec. 7, 2019, at John E. Worthen Arena. Mallers scored 11 points. Paige Grider, DN
Ball State opens up Diamond Head Classic with upset over Georgia Tech
For the past three seasons, Ball State has been accustomed to early Christmas presents. Dec. 5, 2017: Cardinals upset No. 8 Notre Dame. Dec. 5, 2018: Cardinals upset 2018 Final Four contender Loyola Chicago. Wednesday, it was Georgia Tech.
Domination from start to finish by Ball State Men's Basketball (6-4, 0-0 MAC) headed the team to its second win over an ACC opponent, defeating Georgia Tech (4-5, 1-1 ACC), 65-47. The win also gives the Cardinals a 1-0 record in the Diamond Head Classic Tournament.
"Our toughness defensively early was the story of the game," head coach James Whitford said in a radio interview. "It was really hard for them early to score around the basket and we did a great job defending them. Once we got them out of the zone it was a nightmare for them."
Right off of tip-off, the Yellow Jackets struggled to hold onto the ball, picking up 16 turnovers by halftime. Ball State capitalized on Georgia Tech's flaw, knocking down 22 points off of turnovers in the game. Georgia Tech's Khalid Moore and Jordan Usher both had six turnovers.
Defense quickly turned into offense for the Cardinals as a 15-3 run in the mid-first half proved to be the spark Ball State needed. In that run, redshirt freshman guard Jarron Coleman hit two 3-point shots and redshirt junior forward Brachen Hazen had one. Tonight finish was Coleman's second straight game leading Ball State in points, leading the team with 17.
Hazen had a standout performance, finishing with 10 points and 4-6 shooting from the field. Senior forward Kyle Mallers led the team's overall 3-point shooting effort, going 3-6 from outside the arc and finishing with 11 points. The Cardinals shot for a collective 10-23 from deep on the night.
Ball State also out-rebounded Georgia Tech, 32-30, led off by seven pulldowns from Mallers. Redshirt senior guard K.J. Walton also made his return after sustaining an ankle injury against Northern Kentucky on Nov. 20. He finished with six points and four rebounds.
One player that had a quite, but strong showing was redshirt senior forward Tahjai Teague, who nine points and a team-leading six assists. Whitford described Teague's efforts as the straw that stirred the drink.
"He was plus 21 tonight, so you can tell in the game that we thrived on defense," Whitford said. "He had six assists against their [Georgia Tech] zone. He's the reason why the needed to come out of their zone."
In addition to the win, Ball State saw production from the entire bench, downing a collective 21 points. Ball State improves to 6-4 in the finish and will head off to Hawaii to continue play in the Diamond Head Classic against No. 22 Washington on Dec. 22. The Huskies are coming off 22 point win over Seattle.
"It's nice to win a game like this and then get a check," Whitford said."