Jaylin Sellers takes the handoff and goes straight to the basket for a layup plus the foul. He drains the free throw to give Ball State Men's Basketball a two-point lead with 12 seconds to go.
Duquesne makes its way up the court, scrambling to either tie or win the game. Ball State defends their matchups well until Tre Clark III gets the ball on the left wing. He dribbles and shot fakes, but Jarron Coleman doesn’t bite. It doesn’t matter. He shoots it anyway.
The buzzer sounds and the basket is good. The Dukes win, 78-77.
On a day marked with huge college football implications, a classic basketball game was on the loose in Pittsburgh.
The game had 22 lead changes and eight different players in double figures, Ball State (4-4, 0-0 MAC) fell in heartbreaking fashion to Duquesne (7-1, 0-0 A10).
Sellers, a sophomore guard, finished the game with 22 points while shooting 7-11 (63.6 percent) from the field. Head Coach Michael Lewis said Sellers is looking more and more comfortable on the court.
“I think he's earned the right to have games like this. He put in the work and he's patient, and he's just seeing the results of his work,” he said. “Obviously, you can see the trust that I have in him to put the ball in his hands with the game on the line and he delivered again.”
In addition to his efforts on offense, Sellers was instrumental in holding the Dukes' leading scorer Dae Dae Grant (20.1 points per game) to just 11 points, as well as drawing two early fouls on him which kept him on the bench in foul trouble.
Ball State established an early lead and went into the half leading by four. With both teams demonstrating a lot of physicality, there were 38 fouls called in the afternoon. Lewis encourages this mindset for his team.
“Well, we want to be the more physical team, we want to be the tougher team, and I thought we set the tone from the tip,” he said. “We adjust and we continue to play and make plays and we know we needed to make one more today.”
Duquesne shot 11 for 22 (50 percent) from the perimeter, the best they have shot so far this season. However, this was a part of the game plan for Ball State.
“In games like this, you've got to give something up, and we couldn't let those guys get to our paint, and for the most part, we did a pretty good job,” Lewis said. “You gotta give something up. We just knew that they were gonna have to shoot uncharacteristically to beat us, and they did.”
Sophomore center Payton Sparks finished with only ten points in the contest on 3-of-7 (42.9 percent) shooting along with 12 rebounds. Lewis saw this as a positive, and it goes to show Sparks' skill level.
“He's demanding double teams every time he gets it. You can't look at his point production and determine whether or not he played well, because they gotta throw everything at the kid,” he said. “We got a check. We got a check to come play this game, and they're double-teaming. That tells you the respect that he has across the country for who he is, and for him to continue to battle and have 10 and 12 rebounds shows it.”
The Cardinals look to bounce back in another road contest on Dec. 7 at Eastern Illinois (1-7, 0-0 OVC).