A chilly Monday night in November marked the opening day for Ball State men's basketball, a new era for the Cardinals, and Michael Lewis' first game as a collegiate head coach.
Parents, fans, boosters and students filled up Worthen arena with their cheers, claps and “tater tot” chants.
Ball State (1-0, 0-0) defeated Earlham College (0-1) decisively, breaking triple digits with two minutes still left on the clock.
The new, fast-paced Cardinal offense got out to a hot start, jumping to a ten-point lead in the first five minutes and never stopping.
Senior guard Demarius Jacobs, who finished the game with 19 points (7-8 FG, 1-2 3PT) along with six assists, believes the team chemistry was on display.
“We practice with each other all day, every day so it ain't too hard to build chemistry and share the ball. Nobody’s selfish on our team, and everybody looks to let everybody have fun,” Jacobs said. “That was our main focus, to go out and have fun, play with no regrets.”
Sharing the ball is exactly what the Cardinals did.
Ball State finished the game with 23 assists and, of the 11 players to see the court tonight, 10 scored with six finishing in double figures.
New Head Coach Michael Lewis echoed Jacobs belief that this is an unselfish team.
"If you respect the game, and you're not selfish, you take what the game gives you and if you work, it gives back to you. These guys are starting to figure it out and buy into that,” Lewis said. “We’re not into ‘my turn’ shots, it’s not like ‘I haven’t got to [shoot] in five minutes, I’m going to take one now'. We play basketball the right way.”
The Cardinals were able to make their presence felt on the defensive end in an effective way. They forced 22 turnovers while collecting 14 steals and 10 blocks. Additionally, they held Earlham to shooting 16-65 (24.6%) from the field while recording 35 points off of those turnovers.
Lewis emphasized the importance of defense for college basketball.
"There's gonna be nights when the ball doesn’t go in, but you can control things on the defensive end,” Lewis said. “I think everything starts on that end of the floor. It’s gonna be a major emphasis on our part.”
The atmosphere in Worthen arena played a big role in the performance tonight. Jacobs explained that with the student section chirping loud for the Cardinals, they fed off the energy.
“They bring a lot of energy for everybody, and get everybody hyped," Jacobs said.
Lewis said he is planning the future of Ball State basketball and it began tonight.
"[You] just have to give yourself enough opportunities to win the game, that’s why we do this, that’s why these guys are here,” Lewis said. "That’s why they decided to stay in this program, they want to win, they want to help build this program back to when I was in high school, competing for the MAC championships. There’s no reason why this university is not doing that. If we’re going to do it, it starts with the defense, taking care of the ball, and good shots.”
Ball State travels to Terre Haute, Indiana to take on Indiana State Saturday, Nov. 12 at 1 p.m.