Worthen Arena was silent. Not because of the lack of fans due to COVID-19, but because Ishmael El-Amin was at the free-throw line.
These were not two ordinary free-throws. These were free-throws to put the senior guard in the history books. It was to give El-Amin exactly 1000 career points in his 100th career game.
He shot the first free-throw:
“Come on, Ish,” a fan yelled in the sea of silence. Every one of his teammates was standing up watching, as he shot the second.
The limited fans and his team applauded as El-Amin waved to the crowd while soaking in the moment of making history. Not only did he score his 1000th career point, but he also scored 16 points in the game and led Ball State Men’s Basketball (8-11, 6-8 MAC) to a 90-71 over Kent State (14-6, 11-5 MAC).
“He means a ton to the program because of who he is,” head coach James Whitford said. “He came in and had two decent years as a freshman and a sophomore. He has gotten way better and has improved. I am really proud of him.”
“Credit to my teammates,” El-Amin said. “They put me in positions to score the ball. I am grateful for the opportunity. Of course, I am happy, but [milestones] is something I have done before. It is a part of the game.”
One of his teammates being redshirt sophomore guard Jarron Coleman. After the game, Coleman was quietly singing and dancing. He too, hit a milestone, as he scored a career-high 26 points and six assists in the Cardinals’ win.
Coleman missed the first 10 games of the season, and El-Amin filled in as the point guard, and in Coleman’s first practice back, El-Amin described it as ‘A breath of fresh air.’
“They mean a lot,” Whitford said. “You can sense they are starting to get a rhythm out there playing together. They are both really good players. It has taken a while for all of it, but it is starting to form in a really good way.”
Redshirt fifth-year K.J. Walton also contributed to the win with 16 points, followed by redshirt senior Brachen Hazen’s 12. While Coleman had a career-high and El-Amin scored 1000 career points, they still gave their teammates credit for helping them with their accomplishments.
“I had a good game shooting,” Coleman said. “It is more than just us two. All of the other players are capable of having great games. Us two just had a great night together to help the team.”
Coleman scored 20 of his 26 points in the first half. In the game, he shot 8-for-11 from the field and 5-for-8 from three. He was a catalyst in Ball State, heading to halftime with a 57-31 lead.
Not only did he contribute on the offensive end, but Whitford praised his defensive effort on Kent State’s forward and leading scorer, Danny Pippen, who only scored six points. He averaged 20 points before Wednesday’s game.
“I thought the first half was our best half of the year,” Whitford said. “It was a real step forward for us in the sense of we haven’t done well with physical guys inside. “I thought we really did a great job of defending a physical and powerful team.”
Ball State’s game against Western Michigan, Sunday, Feb 21. was postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test, but it gave them an extra two days of practice. El-Amin thought those practices were hard and beneficial in the win.
“Credit our last two days in practice,” El-Amin said. “We had two great days of practice. As players, we knew we had to change up a few things and find our chemistry on the floor and keep us connected as a team.”
Coleman said the way El-Amin treats practices keeps Ball State focused. Those practices helped El-Amin and Coleman reach milestones and ultimately lead the Cardinals’ to a win.
“Every day, we get the same thing from Ish [El-Amin],” Coleman said. “Regardless if it is a practice, workout or weights, he is always going to be focused. He puts the team on the right path to make sure we all have that focus in the game.”