'Poised' Cardinals roll past Eastern Michigan for 3rd MAC win

<p>Redshirt senior forward Tahjai Teague prepares for the next play in a game against Eastern Michigan on Jan. 14 at the Convocation Center. Ball State won, 69-52. <strong>(Ball State Athletics, photo provided)</strong></p>

Redshirt senior forward Tahjai Teague prepares for the next play in a game against Eastern Michigan on Jan. 14 at the Convocation Center. Ball State won, 69-52. (Ball State Athletics, photo provided)

Through the entirety of their game against the Eagles Tuesday, the Cardinals had lost the lead just once. Even early on when Eastern went up by one or went on a 21-8 run to open up the second half, Ball State always jumped ahead. 

In a game of big runs and droughts, Ball State Men's Basketball's (10-7, 3-1 MAC) consistency on offense allowed the team to cruise to a 69-52 win over Eastern Michigan (10-7, 0-4 MAC). 

"The story to me was they came out in the second half and rallied, but I thought our guys showed poise, especially our older guys," head coach James Whitford said in a radio interview. "Kani played really well, but you could sense the youth out there in that moment. Ish is a junior playing like a fifth-year senior who is taking great shots and making great decisions. I thought his composure helped us in that stretch, and Tahj was a monster." 

Coming into the second half with seven points, redshirt senior forward Tahjai Teague went off for 16 points in the second half, finishing with 23 on the night, two points shy of his season high of 25. In addition, Teague blew past his past career best in rebounding, collecting 17 boards against the Eagles. The forward continues his red-hot season, as he is averaging 14.7 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. 

"He really finished tonight," Whitford said. "He was 9-for-12 from the field and 0-for-3 to start the game. After that, we slowed him down and got him more angles. He got more of Boogie and Josh inside, and they did a great job sharing the ball." 

Boogie, redshirt freshman guard Jarron Coleman, and sophomore guard Ishmael El-Amin had no problems sharing the ball, as Coleman racked up a team-high eight assists, and El-Amin followed with seven. The generosity amongst the Cardinals was prevalent, as they out-assisted the Eagles, 20-5, as a team. 

El-Amin continued his scoring ways as well, downing 16 points to compliment his seven assists. The junior shot for a team-high 4-of-8 from outside the arc. He is averaging 14.6 points per game and 2.5 3-pointers per game. 

The game started off close, as Eastern Michigan pulled one point ahead of the Cardinals just beyond the halfway point of the first half. However, that changed dramatically, as Ball State went on a 22-5 run to go up 34-14 at halftime. In the first, Ball State shot 30 percent from deep, and Eastern turned over the ball 10 times.

The second half started in favor of Eastern Michigan, as the Eagles outscored the Cardinals, 21-8, and pulled within four of Ball State's lead. Eastern shot 40 percent from the field and 70 percent from the free-throw line. The Eagles were led by Noah Morgan, who finished with 14 points on the night.

However, Ball State picked back up where it left off in the second half, pushing its lead to as many as 23 and eventually sailing to its 10th win of the season. The Cardinals hit 51.7 percent of their field goals in the second half and tied the Eagles in rebounds with 20. They also managed to foul out Eastern's big man, Boubacar Toure. 

Other standouts for the Cardinals included senior forward Kyle Mallers (10 points, two steals) and redshirt freshman Kani Acree (six points, six rebounds). Ball State will face Miami (Ohio) Saturday at Worthen Arena. The RedHawks are coming off of a narrow win over Kent State. 

Contact Jack Williams with comments at jgwilliams@bsu.edu or on Twitter @jackgwilliams.  

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