After suffering two straight heartbreaking buzzer-beating losses, the Ball State Cardinals were on a mission to get back in the win column, and they did so in dominating fashion against Eastern Illinois
Four players are currently averaging 10+ points on the season, and against the Panthers, there were five with double figures. Head coach Michael Lewis said he knows his team and how capable they are on the offensive end.
“We’ve got good balance on this team, and I think that's what can make us dangerous, offensively and the entire year offense has never been an issue for us,” he said. “It's about how good and how committed we can be on the defensive end and dictate what type of year we'll have.”
Lewis’ game plan for tonight's game was the same as everyone before, pound the inside. Tonight, however, the Cardinals showed their strength on the perimeter too.
“We wanted to attack, we wanted to own the paint, and we knew when we got to the paint, whether on the post feed or the drive, that they really collapsed, and we got to be able to play off two feet, be strong with the ball and make the easy play,” he said. “We had some really open rhythm threes and the guys were able to step up and knock them down.”
Knocking them down is what they did, shooting 9-of-21 (43 percent) from the three-point line as a team.
After what was a slow start to the contest, Lewis made subs and Ball State went on a 10-2 scoring run, leading to the Panthers calling a timeout. He applauded his bench players for sparking the team's run and win.
“I was not happy with our start tonight. I didn't think we had the energy that we needed. We made early substitutions, and I thought both Mickey [Pearson] and Luke Bumbalough came [in] and were centered on the game, they brought a different energy to our team, and we were able to roll from there,” he said. “We've got to continue to get production off the bench and when those guys are given the opportunity they've got to be able to produce and they produced in a major way tonight.”
Led by a career-high performance from redshirt sophomore forward Mickey Pearson Jr. with 20 points (80 percent) and nine rebounds off the bench, the depth proved vital for the Cardinals.
While it was a big win for Ball State, Lewis said he still knows there is room for improvement.
“I thought our guys played with a ton of poise and a ton of patience. We were able to get some really good opportunities on the offensive end, we still got a lot to clean up defensively, and get better on that end of the floor,” he said. “It was a really good win on the road for us tonight.”
With the win, Ball State moves to 5-4 (0-0 MAC). They come back to Worthen Arena this Dec. 10 to take on the Evansville Purple Aces.