Bowling Green (9-3, 5-1 MAC) was undefeated in the Mid-American Conference until they played Ball State Men’s Basketball (5-5, 3-2 MAC).
After coming off of a 86-69 loss against Buffalo, the Cardinals traveled to Bowling Green and snapped its five-game winning streak with an 88-64 win.
“It’s big for us,” senior guard Ishmael El-Amin said. “Especially coming off of a tough loss at Buffalo. I think it was just a testament to the two days prior. We had two great days of practice, and we were able to work on the things we didn’t do well against Buffalo. The days leading up, we were just focused as a team.”
El-Amin led all scorers with 20 points and dished out three assists. He didn’t just lead the way offensively, he stole the ball five times in the win. After missing the second half against Buffalo, El-Amin said he was anxious to get back out there with his team.
“I took Buffalo personal,” El-Amin said. “I wasn’t able to be out there with my team and grind that out with them. I took this personally. I came out here to show that I can play and do this every night. It was nothing new.”
Ball State had six players score in double-figures along with El-Amin’s 20 points. El-Amin attributed the success to great practices and the Cardinal’s hard work paying off.
Redshirt fifth-year guard K.J. Walton and redshirt senior forward Brachen Hazen both scored 14 points. Both of them led the team in rebounds, as Walton had nine and Hazen had eight. Ball State also had contributions from younger players, as freshman guard Teemu Suokas and sophomore guard Luke Bumbalough both had 11 points.
“Those guys have been putting the work in,” El-Amin said. “It is great to see that it is finally showing on game day. Guys like Teemu [Suokas] and Kani [Acree] have been doing their days. Kani has been here a while and knows the system. It is great to see him contribute in ways other than scoring such as tipping the ball out and getting us extra possessions.”
Redshirt sophomore Kani Acree scored a season-high 10 points, but it wasn’t his offense which impressed head coach James Whitford, it was his defense.
Kani [Acree] has been in a slump, and he has been working hard,” Whitford said. “He is approaching every day the right way. I thought he was outstanding tonight on both sides of the ball. He was really able to organize our communication and switches and making sure we didn’t let Trey Diggs go off.”
Defensively, Ball State held the Falcon’s leading scorer Justin Turner, who averaged 20 points prior to the game, to just 18. They also held their second-leading scorer Trey Diggs to just six points.
“We all knew Justin Turner is a great player,” El-Amin said. “We had to limit his good looks and make everything tough for him. We also have one of the best defending guards in the MAC with K.J. Walton. We just matched as best as we could and guys showed up tonight.”
Whitford said that while this win gives them momentum that there is still work to be done and that it is just a small step in the right direction. Nonetheless, he is proud of how Ball State responded after its loss to Buffalo.
“I am really pleased with our team,” Whitford said. “I was really happy with the win. Our guys have been working hard, and we had good practices before this game. We knew some better days were coming.”
Ball State comes back to Worthen Arena to play Northern Illinois for the second time this season. Tip-off is Saturday, Jan. 16 at 1 p.m.
Contact Ian Hansen with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ianh_2.