A huge block leading to a big layup from Mickey Pearson. A smooth behind-the-back pass from Jarron Coleman for an easy layup. A steal and outlet pass leading to a slam.
The Cardinals made big plays under the bright lights of Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Downtown Indianapolis Dec. 17 and left with their third win on the bounce.
After a dominant victory last Saturday against Evansville, Ball State flew south to Indianapolis to take on Illinois State in the inaugural Indy Classic.
After a back-and-forth start, the Cardinals were able to take a 31-29 lead with three minutes to go in the first half, they did not relinquish the lead after that. Head coach Michael Lewis used the halftime break to make adjustments that led to a dominating second half.
“We traded baskets with them for a long time," he said. "Each game, we want to win the turnover game, the free throw game and the rebounding game, and we've been pretty good at that in the games that we've won. We were behind in that area at half, so it's obviously something that we addressed.”
The Cardinals didn’t make many trips to the free throw line against the Redbirds, only shooting five the whole first half, and 20 the whole game; it is a season-low for Ball State. Despite this, the Cardinals used their rebounding to control the game.
“I think they got eight or nine more shots than us in the first half and at the half, we were losing the free throw game,” Lewis said. “Honestly, it feels like we're shooting 15 percent. I'd like to get at least eight more points for us but we've got to be able to rebound.”
Leading by as many as 18 points, Ball State controlled the game on both sides of the floor forcing 12 turnovers and holding Illinois State to a 33 percent shooting performance from the perimeter.
On the offensive side, the Cardinals were clicking in all aspects. All five starters scored in double-figures as the team shot 56.4 percent (31-of-55) from the field and 46.7 percent (7-of-15) from deep.
Ball State was led by stellar play from the backcourt. Sophomore guard Jaylin Sellers scored a career-high 24 points today, as senior guard Demarius Jacobs and junior guard Jarron Coleman added 16 points each, combining for 56 points, over half the team's scoring.
Although they were winning and shooting efficiently, Lewis remained focused on his team's defense.
“I just didn't feel like we had the presence that we needed on the defensive end of the floor, I felt like we were kind of doing what we wanted offensively on that end but as a coach you're like, alright, what if the shots quit falling?” he said. “You've got to be able to get stops. But, we're pretty efficient offensively.”
Ball State shared the ball very well as they have all season. They finished with 19 assists compared to the Redbirds' seven.
Ball State, now 7-4 (0-0 MAC), takes on Georgia Southern (7-5, 0-0 SBC) in Worthen Arena on Dec. 21 at 7 p.m.